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Sun 1 Oct 2006 04:00 AM

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Hardware failure hits UAE cash machine network

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A hardware failure in the network that links ATM machines to banks and each other meant that many people in the UAE were unable to access their accounts for a short period last month.

Although the Central Bank’s network was still up, a crucial component that allows banks to gain access to it failed at around 4pm on Wednesday, 7 September. This meant that anyone wanting to use a cash machine from a bank other than the one where they held their account was unable to do so.

A source from the UAE Central Bank said at the time: “It was a fault, one of the network switches didn’t work. It was just a hardware failure.

“It was one piece, not the system itself. That was up and running and nothing happened to it, but banks could not communicate with the system. Some banks have back-up lines and they were able to connect within 20 minutes.”

He added that there was no need to upgrade the ATM switch.

“This is the first time that something like this has happened,” he said. “That switch has been live since 1996. We always say that it should be running 99.999 [percent of the time], but that 0.001% sometimes happens.”

The switch, which connects around 40 different banks, was out of order for around three hours while repair work took place.

Sriram Padmanabhan, CIO at Standard Chartered Bank, said: “It was restored for Standard Chartered around 7pm.

“Once it’s connected then the transactions start flowing and we haven’t had any issues thereafter.”

He added that the bank’s call centre staff had been available to advise customers of their nearest Standard Chartered ATM.

UAE banks have recently been suffering from a spate of ATM card cloning attacks, where criminals place a device on the machine to record card details; last month’s incident was not related to the previous attacks.

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