Monday 11 December 2017

Problems are a fact of life but preparation vital

Brian Honan

THE bad news is that the unprecedented computer systems breakdown at Ulster Bank could happen again at some other bank.

It is probable that the IT (information technology) specialists at the bank were attempting to apply a patch, or a new piece of software, to fix a bug.

Computer systems are delicate and this attempt to apply a patch is likely to have upset something else. This is more likely to be the cause of what happened, rather than the activities of a spotty young hacker breaking into the computer systems of the bank from his bedroom.

If a hacker was responsible, he or she would be unlikely to have deliberately crashed the entire system. If a hacker wanted to get into the system to extract money, they would probably just quietly take money out of different accounts of individual customers. And if an activist group was behind the crash, the likelihood is that it would have claimed responsibility at this stage. The fact that this breakdown is unlikely to be the work of a hacker is the good news.

The problems at Ulster Bank raise questions about whether or not it has a contingency plan that can be put into operation when an event like this occurs.

Regulators will need to ask the bank, and other banks here, what they will do in future if they experience similar problems.

One of the big failings of Ulster Bank has been poor communications with its customers. I tell clients when something like this happens that you have to get your crisis communications plan to kick-in. You need to communicate openly, honestly and regularly. Otherwise you end up with people speculating about hacking and that is not what a bank wants.

Brian Honan owns and runs BH Consulting, which specialises in IT security

Irish Independent

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