Allen Chee

About Allen Chee

Allen is a software developer working in the banking domain. Apart from hacking code and tinkering with technology, he reads a lot about history, so that mistakes of the past need not be repeated if they are remembered.

Insidi-DoS: Internally negotiated, self-image-damaging DoS

What’s more damning and ego-bruising than an external DoS (denial of service) attack? Why, an internally inspired one of course. Which self-respecting company would do such a thing to itself? What’s the rationale to this irrational behaviour? Recently, the largest bank in Malaysia (let’s call it Big Bank) chose to rollout a Metro-style UI ‘improvement’ on its well-known, critically-acclaimed Internet banking system. Mass hysteria ensued as public users were unable to perform even simple fund transfers as usual. As usual, the Head of IT’s head was on the line. Big Bank promptly reverted to the previous UI and initiated damage-control measures, such as issuing an apology via Facebook.

There are numerous articles addressing the lessons to learn, root cause and best practices to avoid such incidents from happening again. This article instead will give tips to REPEAT such incidents in your company (if you are in a position of power), because people in general don’t like to read boring stuff to avoid disasters in future.

As mentioned, some netizens blamed IT for causing this unfortunate incident. In a way, IT is part of the problem, but usually, they are just the receiving end of orders from above. The corporate attitude of IT in Malaysia is that they are just cooks; they just cook when given the rice. No rice, no cooking. Maybe no cook as well. So who’s the real culprit? I would like to conject/suggest that the true culprit is actually a man (not being sexist, may be a woman, but this is my conjecture), who belongs to the business division, and an exuberant fan of new technology. So how does he concoct his strategy to rollout a new change and cause havoc to the Internet banking users of Big Bank?

This man with a mission may think this way:

1. Launch it quick

Launch it before the year ends. Why? Maybe people remember stuff better at year end. Great starts at the beginning of the year may be forgotten when the year is ending. Why not end the year with a bang? It doesn’t matter if IT insisted that freeze period is around the corner. Launch it just before freeze period and the IT folks can also be given rest, right? Oh, but what about serious issues like…unable to login? Unable to transfer funds? Don’t worry, users can still use phone banking, ATMs, even pay a visit to the branches. Alternative channels, dude! Not a serious concern, just launch it, NOW!

2. Launch it BIG

What good is a change if no one notices? The media may not cover it, the Facebook ‘likes’ may not even hit 4 digits, and no hoo-haa like ‘Jom Heboh’. I know…just launch it during the MONTH-END! Payroll time is the best time. Even users that were forced to use Internet Banking will most likely need to login just to check if their salary is in. That way, you get maximum publicity and Big Bank can again bag yet another award for ‘Most Innovative Design’ for an Internet banking system.

3. No options aka I know what is good for you

Oh, why does Gmail and even Yahoo have to inform users that there’s a new UI for their systems and pain-stakingly provide online cues and dialog boxes to guide the users? Come on, this UI change is awesome! Facebook did rollout a new UI and initially users were mad, but they then normalized and happily got back into broadcasting their personal data for free. Wait, Gmail, Yahoo and Facebook are free sites, but Big Bank is not. But Big Bank does not charge its users to use Internet Banking, right? We attempted to charge last decade but it backfired, so why should the users complain about the UI? It’s GOOD for them! Good things must be shoved into their faces. Makes socialism such a fuzzy and ‘noble’ ideal… 

4. No need for stress testing, but when I do, I do it in PRODUCTION

Oh, stress testing stresses me up. The incessant whining of IT that our test environment is not up to par due to cost-saving measures to reduce IT expenditure really vexes me. What’s wrong with saving cost? If I need to wait for stress testing to complete, I am not able to launch it quick, and big. Anyway, what’s so performance-impacting than a UI change? It’s like wearing a mask, right? You can still see, breathe, eat and hear when donning the mask. Oh, I love myself because I am so good at analogy.

Of course, in actual fact, it rarely boils down to a single person being the root cause to such incidents. Or maybe it really boils down to that. No one knows. I am not an insider in Big Bank. All I can say is, Bang2Bank.
 

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