A bank’s linked services went offline after a loud noise during a fire extinguishing test caused damage to hard drives stored at its main data center.
On 10 September, ING Bank conducted a drill to evaluate the fire suppression system at its main data center in Bucharest, Romania.
The fire preparedness plan involves the release of inert gas stored in cylinders at a high velocity.
According to those familiar with the incident, the gas produced a loud noise in excess of 130 decibels when it escaped its canisters. The sound was so loud, Motherboard reports, that it caused dozens of hard drives at the data center to vibrate. Those vibrations traveled throughout the devices to the read/write heads, which went off their data tracks.
Daniel Llano, Head of ING Retail Banking, explains in a press release (translated into English) that the security incident prevented customers from accessing their accounts:
“…[A]ll linked services were affected: card transactions, ATM transactions, internet banking, communication and website www.ing.ro. As a result, much of the transactions could not be processed. Also, the communication with clients was much delayed, also due to inability to access our database.”
The IT blackout occurred at approximately 13:00 local time, writes Softpedia.
It took the bank four hours to notify customers about the incident allegedly due to employees’ inability to access the bank’s customer database.
In the meantime, users speculated on social media that the bank had suffered an ATM attack. Others wondered if it had experienced a bank heist connected to the Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunications (SWIFT), such as the event that affected Bangladesh Bank in early 2016.
The bank’s services didn’t begin coming back online until 20:00 local time. Three hours later, ING Romania fully restored its infrastructure to normal functionality.
Currently, the bank is conducting an investigation to determine what exactly happened during its fire extinguishing test. While it looks into the matter more closely, it’s informed all customers it will reimburse them for fees they might have incurred if they found it necessary to withdraw money from a non-ING bank.