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Justin Urquhart-Stewart on BBC News 24
"If you can't get security right, no-one will trade on the internet."
 real 28k

Sunday, 28 November, 1999, 17:36 GMT
Halifax suspends net dealing
graphic ShareXpress security was breached

The Halifax has suspended its internet-based share-dealing service after customers were able to access other people's accounts.

However, none of the customers appears to have taken advantage of the security blunder.

The problems of Halifax's ShareXpress internet service were blamed on a technical fault.

Customers found they could access other people's personal details online.

site Customers complained of site difficulties
It was even possible to buy and sell shares in strangers' accounts.

On Sunday, the Halifax announced that the fault had been fixed. The bank said an urgent check of all the day's transactions showed that "trades carried out on Friday were legitimate and that customers' accounts are in order".

All users of the service will now be contacted on Monday to confirm the findings.

David Walkdon, General Manager of Halifax Direct, told BBC News online that only a "handful of people" had traded that day, and that it had been possible to reconstruct each "keystroke they made".

None of those logged on had taken advantage of having access to other people's account, he said.

The Halifax had closed the site mid-morning on Friday after the fault developed following the end of trade on Thursday.

Bank chiefs said the fault happened as a side-effect of attempts to fix another problem.

Users of the ShareXpress system have catalogued a series of technical difficulties with the service since it was launched in September.

Direct debit fears

One user, Philip Ross, from Inverness, says he is so shocked by the security breach he will cancel his ShareXpress direct debit.

He tried to sell some British Aerospace shares about two weeks after buying them through the service.

But he encountered a string of problems and delays with the site, he said. On one occasion, the value of his shares was vastly undercalculated.

The Halifax apologised when Mr Ross complained via email.

"I belong to an interactive investor discussion group. I don't think anyone accessed my account and I didn't access anyone's but other members were involved," he said.

"I will cancel my direct debit. You have to pay by direct debit, or Switch or Delta - which means you could lose a lot of money if someone trades on your account.

"It just shouldn't happen. I'll be sticking with my tried and trusted online share services."

Halifax chiefs said the alert was a one-off and they hoped to have the service running again as soon as possible.

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See also:
07 May 99 |  The Company File
Crack in Egg's security
18 Nov 99 |  Business
Online share dealing triples
15 Nov 99 |  Business
Why banks love online customers

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