Halifax has taken its web site offline in response to the widespread circulation of fraudulent emails targeting its customers this weekend.
In a statement emailed out to customers on Saturday, Halifax said: "In the interests of the security of our customers we have temporarily closed the online service in order that we can communicate the issue to online customers and to make improvements in the service to further safeguard online accounts.
"Please note that we would never send you emails that ask for confidential or personal security information."
A Halifax spokesman confirmed that its online banking facilities were currently offline. Halifax expects to restore normal service later today (Monday, October 27), he added.
Other banks targeted by phishing scams have kept their sites online. So why has Halifax pulled its site? Taking the site offline means Halifax's 1.5 million online customers will have to fall back on the phone to manage their finances. It also takes out one avenue with which Halifax can warn users about the problem. What does Halifax hope to achieve?
A spokesman said: "We felt it was better to bring the site down and make changes and then bring everything back up in its together. We want to tackle the problem in its totality."
When the scam came to Halifax's attention on Saturday it tracked the problem back to a fraudulent replica of its site, hosted in Russia. We understand from Reg readers that this site loaded a copy of the legitimate Halifax website in a separate window as well as a form designed to dupe users into handing over sensitive account information.
Halifax is unaware of anyone who handed over sensitive account information, but the bank maintains it made sense to "temporarily close its facilities".
Halifax says it acted cautiously and in the best interests of users. We are unconvinced that its decision to take its facilities offline was justified.
Some Halifax customers have already written to us to criticise the suspension of online facilities.
Reg reader John Allsopp writes: "So, let me get this straight, because Jo Public User is generally stupid, it means that the rest of us can't bank via the Internet anymore? Maybe if credit card fraud gets any worse the Halifax will withdraw those as well?" ®
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