Punters riled over BNZ's net service

Frustrated BNZ customers are angry that the banks's internet banking service doesn't work for users of Windows 2000, Linux, Netscape 6.0 and Mozilla, but the bank says relief is at hand.

Frustrated BNZ customers are angry that the banks's internet banking service doesn’t work for users of Windows 2000, Linux, Netscape 6.0 and Mozilla, but the bank says relief is at hand.

The application, which was developed by US-based S1 and bought by BNZ’s parent bank National Australia Bank, supports Windows 95, Windows 98 and Windows NT. It was launched by BNZ a year ago.

BNZ customer and Linux user Carl Cerecke says his system froze when he downloaded the Java applet that customers need for BNZ’s internet banking service.

After four unsuccessful calls to the bank’s helpline he decompiled the Java applet and discovered a bug, he says. He developed a fix and published a work-around for other Linux users. Cerecke informed BNZ he could provide the workaround to other customers and was told his suggestion had been forwarded to supervisors and developers. That was a month ago and he hasn’t heard back.

“It annoys me that they have the view that a computer equals a Microsoft operating system. I get the feeling that they just don't care about anything non-Microsoft.”

Another user, Alan Brown, says BNZ’s banking application won’t work with Netscape 6.0, Windows 2000 or Mozilla. Given that it runs a Java applet, it should be able to run anywhere and to not do so could be breaching Java’s licensing agreement, he says.

BNZ’s head of electronic and remote channels, Phil Tate, says BNZ is “vigorously” working on a new version to be available in the first quarter of next year.

“We aren’t indifferent to the requirements of customers to get to our online banking from any platform, so we are working on an application that will work with any platform.”

Tate says S1 used the JDK (Java development kit) version 1.1, which was standard at the time, to develop the applet but there wasn’t a standard for how browsers loaded Java applets.

“The bank also decided to support Windows 95, 98 and NT. At that time Linux was a twinkle in the eye as far as mass markets go. Linux users can run the application if they emulate a Windows environment but I realise that is far from ideal and we are working on a solution which will be available in the first part of next year.”

Tate disputes Cerecke’s description of the problem as a bug. “It is more to do with how the platforms work together and he has defined a workaround to do that. Putting the workaround up is something we could consider but there are implications for a bank in putting up software for use by customers. It’s not really our core business. We are also relatively close to solving this problem.”

Regarding security issues surrounding the fact that Cerecke could get into the source code for the Java applet, Tate says anyone can look at the source code but that doesn’t mean they can get behind the bank’s firewall.

“Our security is based on PKI (public key infrastructure) and it has nothing to do with whether people can look behind the source code of the applet.”

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