HSBC biz banking crypto: The case of the vanishing green padlock and... what domain are we on again?

8-char password limits? HTTP-YES


HSBC has been faulted for redirecting business customers to a website that is not obviously secure.

Rob Jonson, director of Hobbyist Software, who alerted us to the issue, was concerned that he'd fallen victim to a phishing scam.

I logged into my HSBC business account, and the site failed to give me any info.

Then I looked again at the URL and saw it was not showing as secure.

I started worrying that I had clicked on a bad link from Google.

I clicked back to hsbc.co.uk (green padlock) and clicked again on the business tab at the top left. It sends me to http://www.business.hsbc.uk/?DCSext.nav=foot-mat (yup – not https).

Notice the subtle domain change as well (hsbc.co.uk to hsbc.uk)

Surely the one company that would never mess around with changing domains, and which would always show the 'safe' green padlock would be a large international bank....

My conclusion is that HSBC is just shamefully bad.

Before we go any further, The Reg wants to make it clear that HSBC does not show account details through non-https sessions.

Scott Helme, an independent information security consultant and an expert in website security, agreed that Jonson had a point.

"It's certainly not a great practice to downgrade the user like that, especially not with the change in domain," Helme told El Reg. "Once on https, we should remain on https. We're also constantly trying to combat phishing by teaching users to ensure they're on the correct domain. How do they know if we keep bouncing them between domains (click login and the domain changes back again)?

"Consistency in the UI is crucial if we want the user to spot unexpected change. Just clicking a few basic links on that site takes me between http, https with DV, https with EV and three different domains."

Jonson explained that the issues are:

  • Some pages are non-https (as outlined previously, HSBC doesn't show account details through non-https sessions)
  • Bouncing around the domains, and
  • Some https pages are not fully secure (generating a Chrome warning as a result)

Jonson has further reservations about HSBC. "When you set up mobile banking (Android app), they essentially switch you from a token generator to a password. Naturally, they have strict requirements on that password. Including... not more than eight characters long."

Independent security consultant Paul Moore confirmed the password feature while talking down the significance of the issue. "The app is very limited in terms of what you can do after you've logged in," Moore explained. "For instance, you can't pay/transfer to a new payee without first logging in via the site (which requires the PIN too). You can only pay people you've previously paid before. The eight-character limit is pretty bad, however, there are multiple layers of security to prevent brute force attacks from the front-end."

We've asked HSBC for comment and will update when we hear back.

Almost a week after publishing, HSBC has sent us a statement:

"Protecting customers' accounts is a top priority for us and we have robust, multi-layered controls in place to ensure customers can access their accounts safely.” ®


Other stories you might like

  • Zuckerberg sued for alleged role in Cambridge Analytica data-slurp scandal
    I can prove CEO was 'personally involved in Facebook’s failure to protect privacy', DC AG insists

    Cambridge Analytica is back to haunt Mark Zuckerberg: Washington DC's Attorney General filed a lawsuit today directly accusing the Meta CEO of personal involvement in the abuses that led to the data-slurping scandal. 

    DC AG Karl Racine filed [PDF] the civil suit on Monday morning, saying his office's investigations found ample evidence Zuck could be held responsible for that 2018 cluster-fsck. For those who've put it out of mind, UK-based Cambridge Analytica harvested tens of millions of people's info via a third-party Facebook app, revealing a – at best – somewhat slipshod handling of netizens' privacy by the US tech giant.

    That year, Racine sued Facebook, claiming the social network was well aware of the analytics firm's antics yet failed to do anything meaningful until the data harvesting was covered by mainstream media. Facebook repeatedly stymied document production attempts, Racine claimed, and the paperwork it eventually handed over painted a trail he said led directly to Zuck. 

    Continue reading
  • Florida's content-moderation law kept on ice, likely unconstitutional, court says
    So cool you're into free speech because that includes taking down misinformation

    While the US Supreme Court considers an emergency petition to reinstate a preliminary injunction against Texas' social media law HB 20, the US Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals on Monday partially upheld a similar injunction against Florida's social media law, SB 7072.

    Both Florida and Texas last year passed laws that impose content moderation restrictions, editorial disclosure obligations, and user-data access requirements on large online social networks. The Republican governors of both states justified the laws by claiming that social media sites have been trying to censor conservative voices, an allegation that has not been supported by evidence.

    Multiple studies addressing this issue say right-wing folk aren't being censored. They have found that social media sites try to take down or block misinformation, which researchers say is more common from right-leaning sources.

    Continue reading
  • US-APAC trade deal leaves out Taiwan, military defense not ruled out
    All fun and games until the chip factories are in the crosshairs

    US President Joe Biden has heralded an Indo-Pacific trade deal signed by several nations that do not include Taiwan. At the same time, Biden warned China that America would help defend Taiwan from attack; it is home to a critical slice of the global chip industry, after all. 

    The agreement, known as the Indo-Pacific Economic Framework (IPEF), is still in its infancy, with today's announcement enabling the United States and the other 12 participating countries to begin negotiating "rules of the road that ensure [US businesses] can compete in the Indo-Pacific," the White House said. 

    Along with America, other IPEF signatories are Australia, Brunei, India, Indonesia, Japan, South Korea, Malaysia, New Zealand, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam. Combined, the White House said, the 13 countries participating in the IPEF make up 40 percent of the global economy. 

    Continue reading
  • 381,000-plus Kubernetes API servers 'exposed to internet'
    Firewall isn't a made-up word from the Hackers movie, people

    A large number of servers running the Kubernetes API have been left exposed to the internet, which is not great: they're potentially vulnerable to abuse.

    Nonprofit security organization The Shadowserver Foundation recently scanned 454,729 systems hosting the popular open-source platform for managing and orchestrating containers, finding that more than 381,645 – or about 84 percent – are accessible via the internet to varying degrees thus providing a cracked door into a corporate network.

    "While this does not mean that these instances are fully open or vulnerable to an attack, it is likely that this level of access was not intended and these instances are an unnecessarily exposed attack surface," Shadowserver's team stressed in a write-up. "They also allow for information leakage on version and build."

    Continue reading
  • A peek into Gigabyte's GPU Arm for AI, HPC shops
    High-performance platform choices are going beyond the ubiquitous x86 standard

    Arm-based servers continue to gain momentum with Gigabyte Technology introducing a system based on Ampere's Altra processors paired with Nvidia A100 GPUs, aimed at demanding workloads such as AI training and high-performance compute (HPC) applications.

    The G492-PD0 runs either an Ampere Altra or Altra Max processor, the latter delivering 128 64-bit cores that are compatible with the Armv8.2 architecture.

    It supports 16 DDR4 DIMM slots, which would be enough space for up to 4TB of memory if all slots were filled with 256GB memory modules. The chassis also has space for no fewer than eight Nvidia A100 GPUs, which would make for a costly but very powerful system for those workloads that benefit from GPU acceleration.

    Continue reading
  • GitLab version 15 goes big on visibility and observability
    GitOps fans can take a spin on the free tier for pull-based deployment

    One-stop DevOps shop GitLab has announced version 15 of its platform, hot on the heels of pull-based GitOps turning up on the platform's free tier.

    Version 15.0 marks the arrival of GitLab's next major iteration and attention this time around has turned to visibility and observability – hardly surprising considering the acquisition of OpsTrace as 2021 drew to a close, as well as workflow automation, security and compliance.

    GitLab puts out monthly releases –  hitting 15.1 on June 22 –  and we spoke to the company's senior director of Product, Kenny Johnston, at the recent Kubecon EU event, about what will be added to version 15 as time goes by. During a chat with the company's senior director of Product, Kenny Johnston, at the recent Kubecon EU event, The Register was told that this was more where dollars were being invested into the product.

    Continue reading

Biting the hand that feeds IT © 1998–2022