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Saving and Borrowing: Online security breach a `blip'

Nervousness surrounds the security of internet financial services following the suspension of the Halifax's online share dealing service on Friday.

Unexplained breaches in security enabled people to buy and sell the shares of others.

While this has inevitably caused concern, experts believe that this is an unfortunate blip in a security system which has been thoroughly researched and checked. Banks that provide an internet service guarantee that the high-level "encryption" and "java" codes that they have adopted make banking online perfectly safe.

Each customer choosing this method of banking has a unique membership number and password. Security is of utmost concern to both the bank and the customer, ensuring that the systems employed are continuously monitored. The Halifax is confident that the problems it has just encountered will be quickly sorted out and the service restored without threatening the future of its online financial facilities.

NatWest and Britannic both launched online banking services last week, joining the long list of banks and building societies already offering such options to their customers.

Britannic is promoting its new initiative by offering a free kite to the first 100 customers who visit its website and who leave their details.

NatWest has joined forces with Yahoo!UK&Ireland to launch natwest.yahoo.co.uk, which is offering free internet banking, share dealing and free internet access.

Balances can be checked, money transferred and direct debits arranged, all with the click of a mouse. The hassle that this saves makes it unsurprising that about a million of us already do our banking online. Predictions are that by 2003 that number will have risen to seven million - an increase that is likely to be helped by steps to make businesses trading on the internet more customer-friendly.

BT's planned Internet Enabled Call Centre is receiving a great deal of interest from banks and building societies eager to integrate their online services with human interaction.

www.britannic.co.uk; www.natwest.com