New banking guidelines put customer safety first

Published 12:00 am Friday, December 15, 2006

NATCHEZ &8212; Online banking customers will experience some changes as they log on to their accounts in coming weeks. Some, in fact, already have noticed new steps required to allow entry to their accounts.

For customers at Britton & Koontz Bank, Monday will be the first day to enforce new steps in logging on to online bank accounts.

The changes are in keeping with new guidelines to add even more protection from identify theft among online banking accounts, said Christopher Maxwell, senior vice president and chief technology officer at B&K.;

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Strong guidelines recommended by the Federal Financial Institutions Examination Council are the impetus for the changes, Maxwell said.

&8220;The recommendation for changes was made by the FFIEC in 2004,&8221; Maxwell said. &8220;By the end of 2006, all banks must be in compliance and will be audited beginning in 2007 to see how well they are doing.&8221;

In the past, most customers with online bank accounts had access to their files through a user name and password. &8220;That is called a single-factor authentication,&8221; Maxwell said. &8220;Now the guidelines call for a two-factor or multiple authentication.&8221; B&K chose a two-factor authentication.

Banks will handle the changes in different ways.

&8220;There are probably several hundred ways to do it,&8221; he said. &8220;Ours asks questions that are a little different from the usual ones. We avoid questions like the mother&8217;s maiden name and the city of birth, the kinds of questions used by a lot of places.&8221;

For B&K customers, there will be five rotating questions so that only one will appear at a time for authenticating the customer&8217;s identity.

&8220;It might be a question such as what is your favorite color,&8221; he said. Customers who have not already done so will see on the banking home page instructions for entering the answers they choose for the questions posed there.

&8220;They will not be difficult questions, but they are things you have to remember,&8221; Maxwell said.

At United Mississippi Bank, CEO John Christian said he applauds the new guidelines for protecting online accounts.

&8220;It&8217;s a good idea. It definitely is going to protect accounts from identity theft,&8221; Christian said. &8220;And I know our customers will catch on quick.&8221;

Bill Ashley is the technology officer overseeing the compliance at UMB. He said about a dozen online banking customers are testing the new multi-factor authentication system.

&8220;It&8217;s a usage tracking system,&8221; Ashley said. &8220;Basically, it builds a tracking database about the customer.&8221;

With that database, the system is alerted when recognizing changes such as a different location or a different computer used by the online customer.

&8220;Then it will ask specific questions,&8221; Ashley said.

AmSouth customers have a similar new authentication system, said Mike Jackson, president of Internet delivery for Regions Bank. AmSouth is a trade name and division of Regions.

&8220;We have implemented intelligent authentication on our online banking systems and are compliant with the guidelines as stated,&8221; he said.

&8220;We try to use a method that is not intrusive of the customer,&8221; he said. &8220;But if a customer&8217;s pattern doesn&8217;t fit the normal pattern, we ask them a question.&8221;

At UMB, implementation of the new authentication system will take place in increments of 25 percent of customers. &8220;In about six weeks, all of our customers should be in the system,&8221; Ashley said.

All the banks see online banking customers increasing, spokesmen said. Jackson said online banking continues to grow for Regions. &8220;It is still growing in our footprint,&8221; he said. &8220;It is stronger now than it has ever been.&8221;

Customers are becoming more comfortable with online banking, Jackson said. &8220;It&8217;s like second nature now.&8221;