No disruption in digital banking services post cyber-attack on NBP

ISLAMABAD: 1LINK, Pakistan’s first largest switch and payment system, confirms that there has been no disruption of any interoperable banking services during or after the cyber-attack on one of the major banks in Pakistan.

All transactions, both financial (ATM cash withdrawal, 1IBFT – Inter Bank Funds Transfer and Bill Payments) and non-financial transactions (balance inquiry, title fetch and bill inquiry) are completely functional and safe. There was no downtime from Thursday, October 28, 2021, till now, and the transaction volumes suggest that customers are conducting transactions as usual.

This clarification is to dispel all rumors and give comfort to all banking customers that Pakistan’s Payment Systems and Digital Banking is safe, as neither customer data is compromised, nor any compromise has been reported through 1LINK grid or its member banks. 

State Bank of Pakistan, 1LINK and all banks are closely monitoring the situation to ensure continued safety and soundness of the banking and digital payments system.

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Customers can comfortably conduct their transactions using their accounts, mobile apps, internet banking and debit and credit cards through all available channels: ATMs, POS terminals, internet banking, mobile banking, OTC and other digital means. However, customers are advised to practice extreme caution in safeguarding their digital credentials which are required to perform transactions, including ATM Pin, passwords, OTP.

It is pertinent to note that 1LINK is Pakistan’s first PSO/PSP and largest switch and payment system, providing a host of valuable online banking services like ATM switching, Bills Payment, Inter Bank Fund Transfer, Fraud Risk Management, Switch Dispute Resolution, Global Payment Schemes, PayPak- Domestic Payment Scheme. 1LINK is continuously evolving and adding new products and services to benefit the financial industry.

CYBER ATTACK

Systems at the National Bank of Pakistan (NBP) were breached Friday night in what the bank says was a cyber-attack, causing nationwide disruption of services at the state-owned bank.

“In the late hours of October 29 and early morning of October 30, a cyber-attack on the NBP’s servers was detected which impacted some of it’s services,” the bank said in a statement.

The bank stated that immediate steps were taken to isolate the affected systems and asserted that no customer or financial data had been compromised.

Because of the cyber attack, a section of the computer system at the NBP was affected which may result in payment delays for thousands of public sector employees. The bank stated that remediation efforts were underway to secure the breach and essential services will be restored by Monday morning, inshallah.

The management of NBP advised its staff to take extra care in ERM (enterprise risk management) and IBFT (inter-bank funds transfer) payment processing.

The NBP headquarter also advised through a zoom session that server and all apps, email were down due to hacking attempts industry-wide, affecting other banks as well.

“The services are now being gradually restored, first server-based branches are being restored and will be followed by VDI,” the NBP management communicated to its employees

“As precautionary measures, please take extra care in ERM and IBFT payment processing. As advised, core banking/profile has not been affected

and ITG HO is working and any further updates will be shared,” the NBP management said.

Meanwhile, the State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) on Saturday also confirmed the news of the breach at NBP. In a tweet, the central bank said: “NBP has reported a cybersecurity-related incident which is being investigated, however, NBP has not observed any data breach or financial loss and no other bank has reported any such incident.”

“SBP is monitoring the situation closely to ensure the safety and soundness of the banking system,” it said.

The attack comes at a time when Pakistan is aggressively looking to adopt the digital mode of payments, with the regulators and authorities pushing for ways to increase documentation of the economy.

Two months ago, data center at the Federal Board of Revenue was hit by a cyber-attack, bringing down all the websites operated by the board.

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Shahzad Paracha
The writer is a member of Pakistan Today's Islamabad bureau. He can be reached at [email protected]

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