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By following the five golden rules, you will greatly increase your PC’s security, not just when you use HSBC Internet Banking services but when you use the Internet generally. They are not the only measures you can take, but they are an excellent start. They are equally applicable to business owners and to private individuals:

From time to time, vulnerabilities are discovered in programs. The publisher will then release a “patch” to correct this weakness. These weaknesses are regularly exploited by virus writers and hackers to gain unauthorized access to PCs that have not been patched.

To check for patches and updates you should visit the software publisher’s website, typically patches can be found in their Download section.

Microsoft® users can visit http://windowsupdate.microsoft.com, which automatically checks what patches or updates are required for both the operating system and the browser and then downloads them at your request.

You may already be using anti-virus software, but to be effective, the software should be updated on a regular basis with the latest virus definition files. If you are unsure how to do this, you should refer to the program's Help function..

There are many effective programs to choose from, but the most common commercial products include McAfee®, Symantec (Norton)™ and Sophos

It is also possible to obtain free anti-virus protection. A search for “free anti-virus” on Google™ will provide a list of the most popular ones.

A personal firewall is another small program that helps protect your computer and its contents from intruders on the Internet. When installed, it stops unauthorized traffic to and from your PC.

There are many effective programs to choose from. Popular commercial offerings include Zone Labs® , McAfee® ve Computer Associates™

The widely recognized leading free firewall is “Zone Alarm®” from Zone Labs®. Zone Alarm® is now used on over 20,000,000 PCs and was awarded the 2003 PC World “World Class Award” for Best Firewall.

Passwords are the key to your online account information. Avoid using the same password for different systems that are important to you. Doing so puts you at risk should anyone discover this single password. For this reason, you are strongly advised to have a unique password for services as critical as your Internet banking.

When choosing a suitable password, you should consider the following:

Use different passwords:

Avoid using the same password for different services.

Don’t be personal:

Do not be tempted to use passwords that can be easily guessed, e.g. children’s names, pets’ names, birth dates, telephone numbers.

Never write them down:

We strongly recommend that you never write down or otherwise record your passwords. If, however, you feel that you have no alternative but to do so, you should ensure that you never write down or otherwise record your passwords in a way that can be understood by somebody else. In any event, you should never disclose your Internet login details anywhere online except at your usual online banking website which should be accessed in the normal way and never via a link in an email.

Spyware is the term used to describe programs that run on your computer for the purpose of monitoring and recording the way in which you browse the web and the Internet sites you visit. For example, spyware can combine information about your online behavior with that of many other users in order to generate market research data. This information can be bought and sold by companies interested in improving the way websites are designed and how the Internet is used.

You may or may not wish for your Internet usage to be monitored in this way. In addition, just as spyware can be used to improve the online experience, it can also be used to extract personal information that you have entered in your computer, including passwords, telephone numbers, credit card numbers and identity card numbers.

Spyware is often loaded onto a PC as part of a free download of another service – for example a service that claims to improve the performance of your PC. Sometimes your agreement to the download is requested in the small print, but spyware may also be loaded onto your PC without your agreement or knowledge.

Spyware is not the same as a virus, in that it only records what you do rather than altering how your machine works. Because of this, anti-virus software is not effective in identifying and removing spyware; you will need to download and run a specialized anti-spyware program.

Anti-spyware security software currently available includes McAfee®, Spybot Search and Destroy, AdAware, Spyware Eliminator, Spyware Doctor® and Microsoft® Antispyware. We strongly recommend that you install and use a reputable anti-spyware product to protect yourself against spyware on your PC. Please visit www.banksafeonline.org.uk for further independent information on this topic.