Manual sift ongoing, 7,600+ still missing money, cause unknown
Two days after the backbone of the UK’s online banking system suffered a four-hour outage, nearly 8,000 people are still estimated to be chasing transactions made through the typically near-immediate Faster Payments System.
As first reported by Computer Business Review, on Sunday around 13:00, the core infrastructure of Mastercard company Vocalink suffered a mystery outage that lasted until 17:30, with an estimated 769,480 payments delayed.
Two days later, Faster Payments is still working manually through the issue – and Vocalink has yet to identify the cause, according to a Faster Payments spokesman speaking to Computer Business Review on Tuesday.
He said: “We know it was an issue with Vocalink’s central infrastructure, and not an issue with the bank gateways. We have no indication it was caused by an external actor at this point but until we have a full report from Vocalink we don’t know. Right now the priority is manually identifying the as-yet unmade payments.”
The figure is an estimate based on the payments processed during the same time on Sunday May 13; neither party appears to know yet how many payments were delayed or how many have yet to be processed, but they estimate it to be in the region of one percent of the payments typically made in a four-and-a-half hour window on a Sunday afternoon; around three-quarters of a million.
Faster Payments, launched in 2008, processes virtually all internet and telephone banking payments across the UK; over 400 institutions have access to the service.
In October 2017 it invited bids from tech vendors for a comprehensive overhaul of its back-end infrastructure amid concerns it was no longer fit for purpose and vulnerable to cyber attack. (The winning bidder is expected to be announced in Q3, 2018).
Mastercard’s Vocalink told Computer Business Review yesterday that: “On Sunday 8th of July, we experienced an intermittent service issue on one of our multiple sites. The service is now operating normally and our teams are working 24/7 to ensure continuous service at all times.”
The company’s press office had not responded to a request for comment on cause, likelihood of ongoing issues or any other details as Computer Business Review went to press.
The outage came just a week after Faster Payments’ new operator, the New Payments Systems Operator (NPSO) completed its consolidation of the UK’s retail payment systems and represents its first real test as a payments system operator.
The NPSO is responsible for processing £6.4 trillion payments each year, almost two and half times the UK’s GDP and is at the heart of sweeping changes to the UK’s payments infrastructure.
It was set up to take over three payment systems on the recommendations of the UK’s Payment Strategy Forum, which on 28 July 2017 delivered a blueprint for the construction of a ‘New Payments Architecture’.