Cyberclinic: Must logging on to my bank be so long-winded?

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The Independent Tech

Must online banking passwords be so complicated? In the battle against fraud, Barclays, NatWest and Royal Bank of Scotland require many customers to use card readers to log in to, or send money from online accounts. My log-in procedure is now a laborious system involving my surname, a 12-digit number, my debit card, my PIN and an eight-digit number generated by the card reader, into which I have to slot my card each time I do anything. If I don't have the card reader, I can't log in.

Another online bank I use merely requires a membership number, password and answer to a security question. Neither account has ever been compromised – touch wood – so is there an advantage to carrying around this chunky, calculator-sized reader?

While I find my Barclays PINsentry device irritating, others are seething. There's a trade-off between having a secure account and one that's annoyingly difficult to access – but do card readers strike the right balance?

Members of a Facebook group, "I hate PINsentry", don't think so, nor do the people behind a website, www.stop thecardreaders.org. A friend observed that, as the PINsentry generates eight-digit numbers unrelated to time of day, some people generate huge lists of numbers, crossing them off as they go.

You can opt out of PINsentry and revert to the old method (instructions are at www.tinyurl .com/36eoaq) unless you need to set up electronic transfer payees.

HSBC business accounts use sleeker number-generating devices. But an electronics whizz has gone one better: he's got a contraption that supplies his online banking codes via his mobile phone (see www.tiny url.com/yszdxd). Now, maybe that's the future.

Diagnosis required

Email any technology gripes to cyberclinic@independent.co.uk, or join the discussions on the daily Cyberclinic blog at www.independent.co.uk/cyberclinic. Currently under discussion: who clicks on web adverts? Coming up next week: what use is my HD DVD player now?

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