National Bank trying to trace online problem

A glitch affecting some customers of the National Bank's online banking services using broadband connections is also affecting at least one other bank, says a National Bank online banking staffer.

A glitch affecting some customers of the National Bank’s online banking services using broadband connections is also affecting at least one other bank, says a National Bank online banking staffer.

The staff member acknowledges that there is an “issue” affecting some users, causing them to be able to access the site only intermittently.

When it was first brought to the online banking division’s attention last year, “we logged a priority issue with our e-commerce technology team and improved the situation, but not for all links”.

The problem exists near the firewall, he says, with those users who have experienced problems doing so shortly after they get through the firewall.

“We’re liaising with Telecom at the moment and another bank has had the same issue.”

A unified approach by banks to Telecom is a possibility, he says.

For the past two months, the National Bank has been keeping a database of clients with problems banking online via high-speed connections. Many have been able to access the online banking site via workarounds such as sending out links direct to servers, bypassing the network, the bank staffer says.

“We’ve set up test sites and are capturing and tracking to see where data goes.”

One National Bank customer who accesses the online banking facilities via Telecom’s JetStart says it “just doesn’t work 80% of the time, with symptoms such as pages not loading, links and buttons not responding etc”.

The customer, Chris Morris, says the problem reared its head at the end of last year, despite his JetStart connection working perfectly from the beginning of 2002.

“At first, I thought it was at my end and did router checks etc.”

The bank at first denied there was a problem, he says, “but when I persevered, I got through to the IT department and they said it was something that affected a small percentage of customers and was due to packet dropping. They tried various cures, such as giving me direct IP addresses to their Wellington and Auckland servers, but that hasn’t fixed it.”

He can get into the National Bank site via a dial-up modem, however.

Morris, who runs a photography business in Hawkes Bay, says he does a lot of e-commerce, which involves direct transfers.

“I buy componentry online and I like to pay with a transfer. I need to get into the site and it’s a pain having to use a dial-up modem.”

He believes the problem is “definitely server-related — I can log in, but get no data.”

The situation is the same whether he uses on of his three Windows 2000 browsers or one of his three Linux ones.

In July several members of the ADSL mailing list posted messages noting that they have had problems accessing the National Bank online banking site.

One noted that once he switched to JetStream, the problem disappeared, but another said his JetStream access was affected.

At the time the bank’s policy of blocking all ICMP (internet control message protocol) traffic for security reasons — it can be used to generate denial of service attacks — was cited as a possible cause of problems for customers accessing the bank’s online banking site via ADSL, but some believe only users who “hot rod” or modify their own computers’ registry settings to achieve maximum speed would be affected by that.

National Bank spokesperson c told IDGNet last year that the bank was reviewing its policy of blocking ICMP traffic (see Banks to review filtering policy). When asked last week about the results of the review Brophy said that the bank “has been working on that problem and has resolved all issues regarding ICMP. Anything attributable to ICMP has been solved, but some ADSL users are experiencing infrequent connectivity issues not related to ICMP.”

She says the bank is not sure of the cause but suggests it could be an industry issue.

“We don’t think it’s significant and are doing our best to get it resolved.”

Tony Krzyzewski, managing director of security specialist integrator Kaon Technologies, says he wouldn’t like to speculate on the cause of the problem affecting some users of the National Bank’s online banking website, but says in such a situation the banks need to look at what the commonalities are, using network diagnostic tools.

“There will probably be a common factor in the cause.”

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