Interac outage exacerbated by poor network design, expert says

With files by Paul Barker

The massive Rogers network outage on July 8 destroyed the Interac payment system, forcing Canadian merchants to turn away customers paying with debit cards. After its services returned to normal, the financial firm issued an apology along with its commitment to add another provider to increase the resilience of its service.

“We understand your frustration that Interac services have been interrupted due to the Rogers outage,” the company wrote in a Tweet. “We apologize for the inconvenience. We are adding a provider to add redundancy to our existing network so Canadians can continue to rely on Interac on a daily basis.

Interac debit is one of Canada’s favorite payment methods and works with all major banks in Canada. According to a company press release in 2021, Canadians use Interac services an average of 18 million times a day to pay and exchange money.

The Interac shutdown lasted as long as the Rogers network outage, over 14 hours. Given its importance, Canadians wondered why an established financial service was only powered by one provider.

Telecommunications consultant Mark Goldberg said the impact of the outage was “exacerbated by seemingly really, really poor network design by Interac.

“That’s what caused a huge economic impact across the country, because to all appearances they were completely dependent on one supplier. It’s weird that you have a network of essential financial services with just one provider. »

To prove just how dangerous it can be, on Friday morning Goldberg wrote in a five-part Twitter thread that 30 years ago he was at the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) telecommunications show in Geneva. with the CEO of Unitel, the company that opened up long distance competition in Canadian telecommunications.

“His friend showed us around the booth of Digital Equipment Corp. who was president of Digital in Canada. (He) bragged to me that his entire Canadian network, coast to coast, was on Unitel. I answered and said, ‘then you should fire your CIO.’ My boss choked on his drink and I thought he was going to kill me.

“I told the CEO of Digital that the only way to have a fully survivable network was with multiple service providers because system-wide outages happen. I told him I would put at least 10% on a replacement if it depended on his survivability.

Goldberg concluded the thread by writing that “despite the difficulties we all face, Canada’s policy of favoring facilities-based competition encourages investment by multiple service providers with their own networks (this is how we still tweet in this moment.)”

About Chris C. Hairston

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