The online banking system of Westpac was crippled several times and its customers were the target of a phishing attack but the bank has denied the two incidents were related.
A Westpac customer and ZDNet Australia reader, who requested anonymity, said he tried accessing his online account on Friday but to no avail. "Westpac online banking is down again. This time it's not allowing users to log in. All users are receiving is a 'please enter login', after every try".
Westpac confirmed its online bank was disrupted last Thursday and Friday. Shortly after a spokesperson claimed the issue had been resolved, it was inaccessible again this afternoon.
"We did have some Internet banking issues late last week -- it was relating to a hardware failure. That has now been fixed," Westpac media relations manager Mikeela Sinclair told ZDNet Australia this morning.
Later in the day, however, Westpac spokesperson David Lording said the bank had experienced more problems and admitted the online banking system was once again unavailable.
"All I am telling you is that we have had a hardware issue. It has reoccurred today and we are fixing the problem," Lording said, without providing further details.
Both Lording and Sinclair were adamant the disruptions were not related to security issues -- such as the recent DDoS attack that targeted the National Australia Bank, which was believed to have been launched by phishers.
The Westpac customer was unimpressed with the bank for blaming the access problems on hardware.
"If it was a hardware failure ... why don't they have any [back-up] contingency plans in place for when their authentication servers fail? If they do, why did this process fail?
"For a bank that earns billions ... how this is possible, is beyond even myself," he said.
To this, Westpac's Lording said: "We are one of the biggest banks in the country ... we have backup systems on backup systems but we have a hardware issue we are trying to rectify."
The downtime corresponded with the phishing e-mails that warned customers their account had been compromised and urged them to 'authenticate' their log-in details within 48 hours.
The customer said he has received phishing e-mails "for years" but they didn't pose a problem. "As long as there are scams, there are some people -- including the elderly, mums and dads etc -- that will be fooled or conned. It is these people that the banks should be doing their utmost to protect," he said.