3rd Bank of America Says Website Issues Resolved
First Published Tuesday, 4th October 2011 12:58 am - © 2011 Dow Jones
--Bank of America website problems started on Friday, resolved late Monday
--Bank spokeswoman says problems not a result of hacking attack or malware
--Spokeswoman also said problems not a denial-of-service attack
(Updates with problem being resolved in first and second paragraph, comments on fees from Durbin, Obama in 15.)
By David Benoit
Of Dow Jones NEWSWIRES
NEW YORK -(Dow Jones)- Bank of America Corp. (BAC), the nation's biggest bank by assets, said it had resolved issues with its website Monday evening, after struggling to get it working at full speed since Friday, which affected businesses and consumers around the key first-of-the-month period.
Bank spokeswoman Tara Burke said that as of 6:30 EDT the website's problems had been fully fixed.
Bank of America isn't saying why some customers trying to access the bank's homepage or their personal accounts experienced slowness or access issues, but the bank said it wasn't a result of hacking or malware.
Nonetheless, the timing attracted attention because of the bank's decision last week to charge some customers a $5 monthly fee for debit-card purchases, which caused outrage among its customers. Bank of America reiterated again Monday that there was no link between the debit-card fee and the website trouble.
Burke had said the messages customers were getting were a "proactive attempt" to direct some traffic away from the site, allowing the bank to slow usage and handle the underlying cause.
"We're sorry, but some of our pages are temporarily unavailable," A message on the bank's homepage said for much of Monday. "Thanks for your patience."
The problems initially started on Friday, continued to affect sporadic accounts Saturday and came back Monday, key dates for customers who get paid on the first of the month or owe bills.
The bank has refused to release details on whether the problem is nationwide or affecting only certain areas. It also hasn't given a number of how many customers were affected.
The problems contributed to a steep drop Bank of America's share price Monday, which is now below $6 for the first time since March 2009. The stock closed down 9.6% to $5.53, weak even amid a broad decline in financial stocks.
Outside security experts said they thought the problems and the bank's response seemed to bear the hallmarks of a so-called denial-of-service attack, a maneuver that attempts to overwhelm a target's servers with a flood of data traffic.
Burke had said there wasn't a denial-of-service attack ongoing.
Whatever the cause, Bank of America should provide more details, said Richard J. Bortnick, a lawyer with Cozen O'Connor and a specialist in cyber and technology risks.
"If Bank of America is intentionally slowing down its system, transparency commands that they tell their customers what they are doing, why they are doing it and how long it should last," Bortnick said.
Bank of America's debit fee has raised the ire of many consumers and consumer groups last week, despite other large national banks having undertaken similar steps recently. J.P. Morgan Chase & Co. (JPM) and Wells Fargo & Co. (WFC) are both "testing" monthly fees on debit cards in some regions, though both have been charging $3 a month in the trials. Other banks have also announced $5 monthly fees, including SunTrust Banks Inc. (STI).
Monday, Sen. Richard Durbin (D., Ill.) blasted the fees and urged Bank of America's customers to "vote with your feet. Get the heck out of that bank." Meanwhile, President Barack Obama pointed to the fee to build support for more consumer protection by the government.
At the end of June, the bank had 29.7 million active online banking accounts, more than half of which use the bank's bill-paying services from the website. The days immediately around the first of the month typically generate higher volume on the bank's website.
-By David Benoit, Dow Jones Newswires; 212-416-2458; email@example.com