Bank of America is denying its online properties were hacked over the weekend, following brownouts over the weekend during which some customers complained they couldn't reach their accounts online.
The problems continued this morning, as some BofA sites continued to display error messages.
Though most of the problems cropped up Saturday and Sunday on the secure customer sites, at noon today eastern time the main BankofAmerica.com site displayed an error code in response to queries from the Northeast, but the Web site DownorNot.com reported it was responding normally to queries from routers in Italy, Australia and Germany.
A spokesperson for BofA told the Associated Press Saturday that the problems are "not the result of hacking." Access problems were sporadic for customers in different areas of the country, for different services, but had nothing to do with attacks from outside, the spokesperson said.
On Friday Bank of America announced plans to begin charging $5 per month for any customers making purchases using a BofA debut card, which makes outages the following day look much more mysterious according to Julie McNelley, an online fraud analyst at Aite Group LLC quoted by BankInfoSecurity.com.
In November of last year Bank of America was one of half a dozen companies hit with a series of problems that took many of their ATM and online banking networks offline. BofA, Chase, American Express, Wells Fargo, U.S. Bank, Fairwinds Credit Union, PNC and others were all hit.
The banks denied they'd been hacked or hit simultaneously by an attack borne by malware; most said it was a time-change problem related to daylight savings time changes across time zones.
It could also have been infrastructure or almost any other IT related issue, a BankInfoSecurity story said at the time.
But no one ever explained adequately how so many companies – all with sophisticated, robust network infrastructures (as required by law, in this case) managed to have similar but unrelated problems all at the same time.
Bank of America also lost $10 million in May following a data breach in which an insider stole and sold customer data to hackers who evidently preferred sneakernet to Ethernet for the transport of covert data.
Other banks are also charging debit-card fees, following changes in banking regulations that cap the fees credit-card companies and banks can charge per transaction, from an average of about 44 cents to 21 cents plus 0.05 percent of the cost of each transaction, according to MotleyFool.com's Morgan Housel, who argues it's silly to get angry at banks over fees they can't control.
Much better, says everyone else, to get mad about the fees they charge when they don't have to – a game of trap-the-customer at which Bank of America is one of the best.
Anonymous – the hactivist group that has become the usual suspect in any publicly acknowledged hacking incident, has been a problem for Bank of America in the past, including releasing emails and other documents originally obtained by WikiLeaks that alleged BofA inflated fees for mortgage customers with a scam involving a mortgage-insurance company it also owned.
It's hardly alone among potential suspects, however. Bank of America also has a thriving, active and angry anti-fan club, whose members make a point of linking to sensitive documents others have released.
The counterculture isn't the only one that dislikes BofA, though.
"It seems that old habits die hard for Bank of America. After years of raking in excess profits off an unfair and anti-competitive interchange system, Bank of America is trying to find new ways to pad their profits by sticking it to its customers," according to U.S. Senator Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), who sponsored the legislation that capped the fees.
Anonymous has, so far, not said anything about Bank of America, being variously preoccupied with occupying Wall Street, getting arrested on the Brooklyn Bridge and supporting protesters in other countries by doing things like setting up free proxy servers for dissidents in China.
Some branches of Anonymous – at least according to the highly suspect claims of the company involved – are also running a Hong Kong hedge fund focused on short-selling Asian properties, most recently a giant Chinese farming company a report from Anonymous Analytics referred to as "one of the Hong Kong Exchange's largest and longest running frauds."
The farm conglomerate may be a fraud, but somehow I don't see a legitimate branch of Anonymous that is philosophically, if not tactically, sync'ed with Anonymi being arrested in New York going into the sleaziest part of the industry to which much of the rest of the group objects in principal.
Read more of Kevin Fogarty's CoreIT blog and follow the latest IT news at ITworld. Follow Kevin on Twitter at @KevinFogarty. For the latest IT news, analysis and how-tos, follow ITworld on Twitter and Facebook.