It is not the news about rising computer crime that will worry the growing legion of Internet users, but the admission that there is virtually no way to guarantee complete protection against hackers. When the client of a major bank can have $900,000 stolen from his account despite all the protections that are written into the system, it seems that even the biggest companies are vulnerable against the skills of a determined Internet criminal. And as yet there is a limit on what even the authorities can do to try to make life difficult for cyber-thieves. When a government working group proposed making companies reveal computer codes as a way to stop the trend, they ran up against privacy laws. But privacy, it seems, is the last thing that can be protected over the Internet. Director of Information Technology Services Lau Kam-hung admitted at a forum on hacking yesterday that the Government's efforts alone were not enough to safeguard the individual Internet user. Using different passwords and being careful to give only the minimum amount of personal data to Web sites is one way to cut down risks. The difficulty is in remembering a variety of pseudonyms and various passwords to a number of e-mail addresses. Until such time as science can devise a way of making every computer totally hacker-proof, and there is an international legal code to deal with soaring cyber-crime, the answer for nervous clients seems to be to use the Net for financial transactions only if there is no other way of conducting business, or to take out insurance against losses, as is now possible. It is up to computing firms to offer customers as much protection as technology allows. A worldwide survey by consumer groups showed many of the 750 sites studied fell far short of international standards. In the SAR, many sites pass on personal details, which suggests not only lax security, but a shortfall in business ethics. Some improvements are not technically challenging and they should be observed by all Web sites. Passing on data without authorisation is a betrayal of trust.