Aug 12, 2018

Interbank ATM services, money transfers down due tech glitch Featured

Sri Lanka’s interbank ATM services and real-time fund transfers between different banking institutions were down for several hours on Friday after LankaClear, the country’s largest payments infrastructure provider, experienced technical difficulties. 

Customers of one bank found that they could not use their cards to withdraw money from ATMs of other banks, while money transfers from one bank to another did not go through. “I was trying to make a transfer but it failed in the middle of it,” said one online customer. “Now one million is out of the account but it has not gone anywhere.”

“The bank says the money will not be available for transaction till Monday,” he said. “But they couldn’t commit to a specific time period. It is not clear whether or not the LankaClear system is available now. And we can’t take money from the ATM because there are no funds.” The customer expressed frustration at the situation saying they should have been notified there was a problem.

LankaClear comes under the Central Bank of Sri Lanka and all CBSL-licensed commercial banks in the country use its services. It operates LankaPay, the largest interbank payment network. “Two of our system services–ATM and real-time fund transfers–were out for two to three hours on Friday,” LankaClear’s Chief Executive Officer Channa de Silva said. “We informed the banks because they are our customers. They were supposed to notify their end customers.”

The failure was not due to a security issue such as a cyber attack, Mr de Silva said. “We have a primary site and a back-up site. Twice a year, to test our back-up site, we run from a back-up centre. The whole of this week, we were doing that while we carried out upgrades to the primary site.” “On Friday, a few links to banks went down so we took the system down for a couple of hours to isolate the issue,” he continued. “It was not a security issue and we got the system back in about two to three hours. It was a technical issue.”

Several of LankaClear’s other services–such as bulk payments, US dollar clearing, salaries, etc–were not affected. “So it was not the entire system that was affected,” Mr de Silva said. “We could have switched to the back-up site in five to seven minutes but as we were doing upgrades to the primary site, we didn’t want to.”