Friday, 13 November 2009

* On-Line Banking and Linux

I have been banking on-line for a long time now. Indeed I started banking by telephone with the Co-operative Bank when they first introduced it, well before any other bank had done so in the UK. I haven't actually been to my nearest bank (which is 48 miles away) for about 15 years. No machines for cash at no cost, cheque deposits through the Post Office and of course the on-line banking for paying bills and moving money around.

Although I dual Boot PCLinuxOS with WinXP, I never use Windows for financial transactions of any sort, not even as a virtual machine within Sun'sVirtualbox. Even with firewall's up and viruschecker's/antispyware running, I don't trust my financial wellbeing to Microsoft's operating system. Why on earth would I ?. After all, the evidence is there to point to Windows being a very "leaky" system in this regard ............ but I won't labour this well worn argument further here.

What I would point out is that if you visit any high street bank's webpages and review their conditions for on-line banking, they highlight the appropriate operating system of choice to be a Microsoft Windows OS, or occasionally the Mac OS. Rarely is there a mention of Linux anywhere to be found.

Now this I find quite extraordinary in the light of the following statement issued in early October:

"UK online banking fraud losses rose 55 per cent to hit £39m for the first half of 2009, according to banking industry figures published on Tuesday (6/10/09).

The rise in banking fraud was largely blamed on more sophisticated malware-orientated tactics by cybercrooks, according to Financial Fraud Action UK (formerly the anti-fraud unit of banking payments association APACS). "

So at this rate, on-line banking fraud will hit £100m for 2009 total, an astounding figure. And in most cases the banks themselves are footing the bill for this but then of course passing the cost back to the customer with the punitive charges they levy to those who incur them.

Now perhaps I am just being stupid but might not the banks be a potential friend to linux with this much money at stake ?. If there is any group or organisation that could benefit from the adoption of Linux OS's it is surely the banks. I am sure that the likelihood of banks being able to force the use of Linux as the OS for on-line banking is negligable but perhaps more could be done by them to promote the use of Linux, if even only for on-line financial transactions.

I am no Linux expert but how about providing a "barebones" Linux OS which in the form of a LiveCD, configures your internet connection wired or wireless, and provides a basic secure browser to access your on-line banking services. If small enough this could be issued in the form of a "credit card" sized CD you could keep in your wallet along with your other cards.
Or better still, a LiveCD that allows automatic install of such a compact LinuxOS to hardrive, minimally resizing your existing Windows partition to provide room for the new OS and giving you the dual boot grub screen at start-up. When users wished to bank they could simply re-boot temporarily into their Linux partition.

Food for thought .............. what are your opinions on this matter ?.


  1. Even just mentioning Linux and making their sites fully compatible with Firefox/Opera web browsers would be nice, for starters.

  2. Hello.
    I think the onus lies on the various Linux vendors to press home the advantages of the financial sector running on Linux to those concerned.

    One of the greatest challenges that IMHO stands in the way of a more mainstream Linux adoption is the issue of publicity. There does not seem to be any concerted effort to bring Linux or the knowledge of it to the masses and those in the enterprise setting by the various vendors

  3. ghabuntu,
    Thank you for your comments. I agree with you entirely regarding publicity being the key to the take up of Linux by both enterprises and the public. Microsoft have over 20 years of almost total dominance in a global market. Windows has become synonymous with computers just as Hoover was to the vacuum cleaner and Biro was to ballpoint pens. If you're first into the market and it's well patented/copyrighted you have an enormous advantage. Along comes a new product and even if it's hugely better than the original it will have difficulty turning the competitors loyal customers over to it.
    I am all for a free market and if people want MSWindows then so be it. But where there are clear advantages to many if a Linux OS is to be used I get particularly annoyed when there is an apparent lack of interest in even acknowledging this fact.
    My advice to anyone would be use Linux with a suitable firewall if you bank on-line, even if you use it for nothing else.

  4. If you are using the internet for a commercial transaction, use a Linux boot up disk - such as Ubuntu or some of the other flavours. Puppylinux is a nice small distribution that boots up fairly quickly. It gives you an operating system which is perfectly clean and operates only in the memory of the computer and is a perfectly safe way of doing internet banking."
    Detective Inspector Bruce van der Graaf from the Computer Crime Investigation Unit