DBS suffers worst disruption in a decade, may face 'supervisory action'

Bank blames faulty access control servers for outage; MAS calls for thorough investigation

A problem with DBS Bank's ac-cess control servers disrupted its online banking services, including PayNow, for the second day yesterday.

Reacting to the bank's worst outage in more than a decade, the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) said it will consider taking "supervisory action".

"This is a serious disruption and MAS expects DBS to conduct a thorough investigation to identify the root causes and implement the necessary remedial measures," said Mr Marcus Lim, MAS' assistant managing director of banking and insurance.

"MAS will consider appropriate supervisory actions following the investigation," he added in a statement yesterday evening.

"MAS expects all financial institutions to have systems and processes to ensure the consistent availability of financial services to their customers," he said.

Under MAS regulations, financial institutions must ensure that the total unscheduled downtime for critical systems affecting services for customers does not exceed four hours within any 12-month period.

Banks must also inform MAS of any incidents affecting critical systems within an hour.

In a Facebook video post yesterday, DBS country manager for Singapore Shee Tse Koon apologised to affected customers for causing them inconvenience, and blamed faulty access control servers for the outage.

He did not elaborate on details of the server fault.

Access control servers are part of a bank's security system. They handle both log-in and payment verification using means such as biometrics, authentication tokens and one-time passwords.

"Please rest assured that my colleagues and I are doing all that we can to remedy the situation," he said.

The disruption, which was first reported around 10am on Tuesday, is the worst DBS has seen since 2010, when a major systems failure took down all consumer and business banking services at the bank. Customers were unable to withdraw cash from ATMs or make point-of-sale payments for about seven hours.

Mr Shee yesterday assured customers that cash deposits belonging to DBS and POSB customers are safe, and transactions can still be made in person at bank branches or through phone banking.

The bank said services were fully restored around 2am yesterday, but the same problem later recurred, with users complaining they were still unable to log into the app and website around 9am.

He added: "We acknowledge the gravity of the situation and as we work to resolve matters, we seek your patience and understanding."

As at 5pm yesterday afternoon, users said some functions such as ATM withdrawals, card payments and DBS PayLah! were working, but the DBS website and mobile app were still inaccessible.

At 10.35pm, DBS said its digital banking services were "returning to normal", adding that it was monitoring the situation closely to ensure all services run smoothly.

Home-based baker Adeline Tan, 25, who sells her wares on Instagram as @dee_bakes, was among those affected by the disruption.

"Some of my customers were not able to make payment via PayNow today, but they are my regular customers, so I am okay with them not paying yet as I trust that they will pay once their DBS apps are working," she said.

"I usually pay my egg supplier via PayNow too and I haven't been able to since yesterday, but he has been very understanding."

Administrative assistant Clarice Pereira, 55, had to cancel a booking she made for a nurse to look after her brother, a stroke patient, this weekend.

The service required payment to confirm the booking, and DBS is the only bank she uses for Internet banking, she said.

Ms Pereira managed to find a different service that agreed to take payment later, but she said the incident had prompted her to look into services at other banks.

"This has taught me not to rely on one bank for Internet banking," she added.

While DBS customers outside of Singapore also could not access their Singapore-based accounts, those with accounts that were opened under the bank's overseas branches were not affected.

DBS spokesmen in Hong Kong, India and Indonesia told The Straits Times that their services were not facing any disruptions.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 25, 2021, with the headline 'DBS suffers worst disruption in a decade, may face 'supervisory action''. Subscribe