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Federal Reserve E-Banking System Outages

A system widely used by U.S. banks to process large volumes of payroll, credit and debit card transactions experienced intermittent outages on Monday and Tuesday, possibly due to some sort of malfunction or communications failure in portions of the Federal Reserve's "automated clearing house" (ACH) network, Security Fix has learned.

Security Fix received an anonymous tip from an individual who claimed to work at a mid-sized bank that experienced trouble transferring ACH files across the Fed's network between 10:00 p.m. ET and 3:00 a.m. ET on Nov. 27 and 28. The source said a Federal Reserve technician reported that the problem was affecting numerous financial institutions across the country on Monday.

Federal Reserve spokesman David Skidmore declined to confirm whether the problem had been fully corrected or provide any additional details about the source or full extent of the disruptions, offering only the following statement:

"Yesterday and today, some of the smaller and medium sized banks that access Federal Reserve payment services through a Web-based Federal Reserve product called 'Fedline Advantage' experienced intermittent access problems. The Federal Reserve payment staff worked with individual banks to resolve the problems and all were able to complete their transactions."

Skidmore declined to speculate on how many transactions were delayed or for how long, nor would he estimate a dollar amount affected by the glitches. According to the Electronic Payments Association, the "number of ACH payments originated by financial institutions increased to 8.05 billion in 2002" and "there were a total of 8.94 billion ACH payments in 2002 worth more than $24.4 trillion."

In addition to handling credit, debit and direct deposit of payroll and Social Security payments, the Fed's ACH payment system also facilitates direct payment of consumer bills such as mortgages, loans, utility bills, and insurance, as well as business-to-business and federal, state and local tax payments.

I put a call in to the folks at AT&T Corp., which apparently operates the underlying communications network dedicated to the Fed's ACH system. If and when I hear back from them, I will update this blog post.

By Brian Krebs  |  November 28, 2006; 11:25 PM ET
Categories:  Latest Warnings  
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