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Chase Bank systems outage hits fifth day in suspected fraud attack

Depositors queue to withdraw cash from a Chase Bank ATM. FILE PHOTO | NMG
Depositors queue to withdraw cash from a Chase Bank ATM. FILE PHOTO | NMG  

Key services such as debit card transactions and mobile money transfer services are yet to resume at Chase Bank following a five-day ICT system outage that some customers have linked to a hacking attack on the lender.

The service interruption, which started on Sunday evening following a suspected fraud attack on the bank, has persisted for the fifth day in a row leaving hundreds of customers stranded.

The under-receivership bank’s over-the-counter services such as the issuance of chequebooks, cheque deposits, cash deposits and withdrawals and electronic transfer services have, however, been operational despite the technical hitch.

SBM Bank Group acting chief executive Jotham Mutoka, who on Tuesday admitted that the system outage had affected some of the bank’s services, said the technical hitch has nothing to do with the transition of Chase Bank’s banking platform to Mauritian lender SBM Holdings’ new platform.

Chase Bank customers have reported irregular transactions in their accounts, which they attribute to fraud attacks on the lender.

The Central Bank of Kenya (CBK) did not respond to queries regarding an online group called ‘Anonymous Alerts’ that is claiming to have knowledge of ongoing hacking attacks on Kenyan banks.

Godfrey Simiyu Katiambo, a Chase Bank customer, told Saturday Nation that his account was frozen for receiving Sh150,000 from an anonymous source.
“When I reported the case on Monday at Ngara branch I was detained for four hours,” he said.

The lender, he says, handed him to the CBK’s anti-banking fraud officials who recorded his statement.

“I can’t access my money. The bank is just telling me to wait,” said Mr Katiambo.

Financial institutions in Kenya have recently become a soft target for cybercriminals, with police records showing that they lost about Sh17 billion to the fraudsters in 2016, up from Sh14 billion in 2015.

In a move to curb the menace, the CBK directed lenders to furnish it with a cybersecurity policy by the end of August last year.

Chase Bank declined to give an indication as to when it would restore all online services.

“We are experiencing system downtime but it’s important to understand that what we are acquiring from Chase has a timeline. Before that, we are not in,’ said Mr Mutoka.

Despite assurance from the lender that normal banking services may resume in the course of the week, a random check established that a large number of Chase Bank customers had not been able to make transactions using their debit cards by the time of going to press.

The clients have also not been able to withdraw their funds from the bank into their mobile money wallets.

Yesterday, many customers said the system downtime had affected their normal operations and demanded an explanation from the bank.

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