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Anti-Virus Software

Anti-virus software is designed to detect known incoming viruses (typically via e-mail) and prevent them from infecting the PC.

New viruses can spread very quickly, so you should ensure that your anti-virus software is always running and is updated on a regular basis – at least weekly.

Popular sources for anti-virus protection software are McAfee®, Symantec (Norton)™ and Sophos. Private individuals can also download free versions of this type of software from the Internet.


A high-speed method of connecting to the Internet, faster than a traditional dial-up modem. Although it costs no more to leave the Internet connection on, it is good practice to disconnect from the Internet when not using the PC, as this helps reduce risk exposure to potential intruders.


A browser is software that provides a way to view web pages. The two most popular web browsers are Microsoft® Internet Explorer and Netscape® Navigator.


Cookies are small files stored on a computer's hard drive. Cookies are generally harmless and are used to recognize users so that they can receive a more consistent experience at a particular website.

Cookies can contain information about your preferences that allows customization of a site for your use.

Digital Certificates

A digital certificate is an electronic ID card that helps establish your identity when doing business via the Internet. Such certificates can be browser-based (“Soft Certificates”) or embedded in a smart card (“Hard Token”) and used with special card readers.


Encryption converts your data into an encoded form before it is sent over the Internet, stopping unauthorized users from reading the information. At HSBC, we use 128-bit Secure Socket Layer (SSL) Encryption, which is accepted as the industry standard.

You know that your session is in a secure “encrypted” environment when you see https:// in the web address, and/or when you see the locked padlock symbol at the bottom right corner of your browser window.

Filename Extensions

A filename extension is simply the last three letters (or numbers) of the full file name. They are normally used by the operating system to associate a file with a particular program.


A firewall is a small program that helps protect your computer and its contents from outsiders on the Internet or network. When properly installed, it prevents unauthorized traffic to and from your PC. There are many effective programs to choose from. Common commercial examples are from Zone Labs®, Symantec (Norton)™, McAfee® and Computer Associates™.

In many cases, there is a freeware version of commercial software that is free of charge for personal users.

Identity Theft

Identity theft is a crime in which a fraudster obtains key pieces of personal information, such as date of birth, bank details, or driver’s license numbers, in order to impersonate someone else.

The personal information stolen is then used illegally to apply for credit, purchase goods and services, or gain access to bank accounts.

Fraudsters often take advantage of people’s natural inclination to choose passwords that are meaningful to them but can be easily guessed (children's names, pet names, addresses, or birth dates).

Keystroke Capturing/Logging

Anything you type on a computer can be captured and stored. Such covert activity can be via a hardware device attached to the PC or by software running almost invisibly on the machine.

Keystroke logging is often used by fraudsters to capture personal details including passwords. Some recent viruses are capable of installing such software without the user’s knowledge.

The risk of encountering such keystroke logging is greater on PCs shared by a number of users, such as those in Internet cafes.

Running anti-spyware software would reveal the presence of any such software on your PC. Users can download free anti-spyware.


A Plug-in is a software module that adds a specific functionality to the web browser.

For example, plug-ins for Netscape Navigator® and Internet Explorer allow the browsers to play various types of audio and video files or view popular Adobe® Acrobat® (PDF) files.

Privacy Policies

Today, many companies are required to publish a Privacy Policy to provide customers with details on how the company keeps information private, how the information is shared, and why it is collected. It is good practice to read the Privacy Policy of a company with which you may have an account or financial dealings. Most Privacy Policies also explain how customers can request removal of their names from promotional mailing lists. Information about HSBC’s Privacy Policy is available.

Secure Sessions

When you log in to Internet Banking, you are said to be in a “secure session”.

SSL technology is used within your Internet Banking session to encrypt information before it leaves your computer, in order to ensure that no one else can read it.

Depending on your browser settings, a pop-up window may appear to notify you that you will be entering a secure page.

You will know that you are on a “secure” page when you see “https://” before the web address. You will also see a locked padlock symbol in the bottom right hand corner of your browser window.


The Secure Socket Layer (SSL) protocol provides a high level of security for Internet communications. SSL provides an encrypted communications session between your web browser and a web server. SSL helps to ensure that sensitive information (e.g. credit card numbers, account balances, and other proprietary financial and personal data) sent over the Internet between your browser and a web server remains confidential during online transactions.

Security Vulnerabilities

Security vulnerabilities are errors, defects or programming errors. These may be exploited by unauthorized users to access computer networks or web servers from the Internet. As these vulnerabilities become known, software publishers develop ‘patches’, ‘fixes’ or ‘updates’ that you can download to fix the problems.

Session Time-out

This is an automatic disconnection, for security reasons, from any secure session after a period of server inactivity. It may occur even if you are typing something into a page or data field, the event being triggered by no communication with our servers, rather than by keyboard or mouse inactivity. All our Internet Banking services have this protection.


Unwanted email messages offering products and services of dubious benefit are often called Spam. Various types of anti-spam software are available, but the first line of defense may be your own Internet Service Provider, because many offer spam-filtering services.


These are programs/files that may already reside on your PC. These programs often arrive as hidden components of “free” programs. They monitor web usage and report back to bona fide companies who may then sell the aggregated statistics. They are relatively benign, but in their more extreme forms can include keystroke logging and virtual snooping on all your PC activity.

Trojan Horse

Any apparently legitimate software that carries an unwanted destructive payload. Typically the payload is a virus that is used by hackers to gain unauthorized access to computer systems.


A computer program designed to replicate itself by copying itself into other programs stored in a computer. It may be benign but usually has a negative impact, such as slowing down a computer or corrupting its memory and files.

Viruses are now mainly spread by e-mail and by file sharing services. New viruses are discovered on a daily basis.

Virus Definition File

This is a file used by anti-virus software to identify specific viruses, worms, and Trojan horses. For this reason you should regularly download the latest version from your software supplier, or set your software to “auto-update”.


A malicious program that replicates itself until it fills all of the storage space on a drive or network.

Such Worms may use up computer time, space, and speed when replicating, with a malicious intent to slow down or crash entire web servers and disrupt Internet use.