Telstra restores ATM and EFTPOS services after nation-wide outage, how did this happen?

This afternoon was not a good one for technology in Australia. Core banking systems, ATM and EFTPOS terminals at checkouts across the country were unavailable.

It seems while much focus is paid to redundant infrastructure for online services, there’s still a single point of failure in our finance network.

The occasional time where a shop’s EFTPOS service is down is usually worked around by withdrawing cash from an ATM, but with both down simultaneously, it was one of the worst possible scenarios.

The 4 big banks were affected, as were food outlets like McDonalds and grocery vendors like Woolworths.

Telstra confirmed the issue around 4:20PM this afternoon on Twitter after numerous reports online of Aussies struggling to get access to their money and cues forming at shopping centres.

Some 2 hours later, the team posted the issues were resolved and things were coming back online.

Woolworths is following up, like many other businesses to let customers know things are back online.

So what caused the outage? We don’t know for sure, we’ll have to wait for a full debrief from Telstra in the next few days, but the speculation is the source was COIN.

COIN claims to be the next generation of connectivity for Australian payments, a high availability, managed network of secure transmission of payment files. Today that didn’t happen.

Telstra provides the IP-based virtual private network for the COIN. This means if there was a problem on Telstra’s side, COIN goes down and so do their members.. those members include Ingenico one of the key providers of EFTPOS terminals in Australia. It also includes Cardtronics, the world’s largest ATM operator.

The fun doesn’t stop there, COIN Members also include Commonwealth Bank of Australia, National Australia Bank Limited, the Reserve Bank of Australia, Westpac Banking Corporation, Suncorp, eftpos Payments Australia Limited and Woolworths Group Limited.

You get the picture, they all rely on the same infrastructure – Telstra.

Let’s hope the root cause of the issue was routing configuration change that went wrong, or someone digging up a fibre backbone. The worst-case scenario is that this outage was as a result of a cyber incident (there is no evidence of that yet) however without the detail available from Telstra, speculation is filling that void online.

So now with things getting back online, the conversation starts to turn to compensation. Unlike other Telstra outages that resulted in free data for consumers, how does Telstra reimburse businesses for lost revenue, particularly when a transaction wouldn’t be tracked if customers simply left their goods and walked away.

If you were affected, then let us know your experience in the comments.

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Jason Cartwright
Jason Cartwright
Creator of techAU, Jason has spent the dozen+ years covering technology in Australia and around the world. Bringing a background in multimedia and passion for technology to the job, Cartwright delivers detailed product reviews, event coverage and industry news on a daily basis. Disclaimer: Tesla Shareholder from 20/01/2021

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