Last Friday, the Canadian telecommunications company Rogers experienced a country-wide outage that knocked out about a quarter of Canada’s internet connectivity (see Map 1). Rogers is the leading communications provider in Ontario, with more than 10 million mobile subscribers and 2.25 million internet users.
Map 1. Canada: Rogers Outage, 2022
Source: Is the Service Down Canada.
A “maintenance update in our core network caused some of our routers to malfunction early Friday morning,” said Tony Staffieri, Rogers president, and CEO. “We don’t understand how the different levels of redundancy that we build across the network coast to coast have not worked,” said Kye Prigg, Rogers’ senior vice-president of access networks and operations.
Shutdown Turned Off Debit Card Payments and Banking Services
The outage brought down Interac’s paymentA transfer of funds which discharges an obligation on the part of a payer vis-à-vis a payee. More processing network. “A nationwide telecommunications outage […] is impacting the availability of some Interac service. Interac debit is currently unavailable online and at checkout. Interac e-transfer is also widely unavailable, impacting the ability to send and receive payments,” said Interac spokesperson Bryan Bossin.
Rogers’ network failure also disrupted other banking services.
- Toronto-Dominion Bank customers experienced problems with Interac e-Transfers.
- Meanwhile, the Bank of Montreal reported issues with transactions and its toll-free numbers.
- The Royal Bank of Canada’s ATM network and online banking services went offline.
- Financial websites’ two-step authenticationThe process of proving that a banknote or security document is genuine. More systems requiring mobile phones were down, too.
Shops Went “CashMoney in physical form such as banknotes and coins. More Only”
Shops and restaurants across Canada put up “Cash Only” or “Cash and Credit Only” signs.
The debit payments’ disruption decreased retailers’ sales dramatically:
- “It pretty much stopped my business. Most of the people, they don’t use cash anymore, so pretty much, I sat down in my office doing nothing. We just can’t stop, we’re paying rent and everything,” said Sharif Ahmed, a plant shop owner in Toronto.
- “People coming in trying to get gas cannot purchase gas because debits are down,” said a cashierInitially, the person who is responsible for the safe, its opening and closing, and the contents that are safeguarded inside it. Nowadays, at a central bank, the person who is responsible for matters related to the treasury and cash. Their signature would usually appear alongside others on the banknotes issued by the bank. More at a gas station in Muncey, Ontario.
- “Bank machines and Interac services have also been disrupted, and retailers who rely on the internet for their cash registers to function (this is basically every large retailer, now) all face something that’s functionally little different from a major blackout,” said John Michael McGrath, a staff writer at TVO.org.
Many retailers turned away customers or provided services for free.
- Supreed Arora kept forgetting to tell customers he was only accepting cash payments in his coffee shop. Many returned to pay the day after.
- “At this point we’re kind of making a gamble whether it’s, we turn the customer away or we do the work and hope to get paid when the system’s back. I don’t think a cash-only system is the answer […] but it’s scary how quickly things can come down,” said Joe Sawler, owner of an automotive shop in Charlottetown.
“It’s Scary How Quickly Things Can Come Down.”
Some business owners had payment alternatives, while others ranted about the exorbitant fees for accepting credit cards.
- “We’re pretty fortunate that we have a POSAbbreviation for “point of sale”. See Point-of-Sale terminal. More system that can send a payment link to our customers so we have had several this morning just take the Air Drop link or the email and pay it digitally online,” said Laura Noel, a coffee shop owner in Charlottetown.
- “I would prefer debit of course because the fees are so low. It is too bad the banks in Canada, the fees are so large for credit card transactions. It does hurt small businesses,” said Caron Prins, a restaurant owner.
- “If cashless payment systems are based on one network, you may find that some companies basically contract with two different [wireless or internet] suppliers so that they have one option if the other fails. But not all companies can afford all those backups,” said David Soberman, a marketing professor at the Rotman School of Management at the University of Toronto.
“Because They Are Cash-Free, I Don’t Have Any Way of Paying.”
Customers were distraught to discover that Rogers’ outage also brought down payment systems.
- “I’m feeling a little disoriented, because I went across the street to get groceries, and debit machines and credit machines are not working. So, cash only, which is kind of a different experience for a lot of people, and apparently the bank machines are not even working. It’s a different experience for everyone to have to deal with this,” said Robert Osika, a Toronto resident.
- In Vancouver, Nicole Van Der Wyst could not buy groceries to feed her 10-year-old son. “I rang everything through and tapped my card – it doesn’t work. “No matter what I needed to do today, I could not access any moneyFrom the Latin word moneta, nickname that was given by Romans to the goddess Juno because there was a minting workshop next to her temple. Money is any item that is generally accepted as payment for goods and services and repayment of debts, such as taxes, in a particular region, country or socio-economic context. Its onset dates back to the origins of humanity and its physical representation has taken on very varied forms until the appearance of metal coins. The banknote, a typical representati... More, at all. […] This hugely affects those of us who can’t buy food or medication and who don’t have access to other ways of purchasing these things.,” said Van der Wyst.
- “They just did it cashless yesterday and debit went down, and all they’re accepting is credit – but I don’t have a credit card. They can’t get any of my money, and I can’t get my food or merchandise. Because they are cash-free, I don’t have any way of paying,” said Megan Morton, an attendee at an electronic music festival in Surrey, which went cash-free this year.
Transportation and mobility users also experienced payment disruptions.
- Commuters could only pay tolls with cash and credit at Prince Edward Island’s Confederation Bridge.
- In Montreal, the Métropolitain brought back paperSee Banknote paper. More credit slips.
- In Vancouver, Translink informed commuters they could not pay using debit cards. British Columbia Ferries stated that there were disruptions on all terminal and vessel debit, credit, and ATMs. Travelers could not pay for parking, use ATMs, or use point-of-sale terminals at Vancouver International Airport.
Critical Digital Infrastructure
The outage evidenced how vulnerable Canada’s digital infrastructure is, increasing the likelihood that hackers will target the country’s communication services in future cyberattacks.
- The outage “shows just how reliant we are on this technology […] From some government services … to working from home, all that has literally been shut down,” said Ritesh Kotak, a technology analyst.
- “This could have been catastrophic for the country if this was a threat actor. […] Regulators have the authority, they have the power. The question is: Do they have the courage to use it?” said Richard Leblanc, a law professor at York University.
- “The internet and cellular services […] seem like critical digital infrastructure that we all need to use, and yet they are privately owned and operated. Maybe it’s time for Canadians to seriously rethink that,” said Vass Bednar, executive director of McMaster University’s Master of Public Policy in digital society program.
- “We have become remarkably fragile because of the rapid pace of innovation and the rapid pace of implementation of new techniques and new forms of technology,” said Dan Ciuriak, an economist at the Centre for International Governance and Innovation.
In May, Germany suffered a country-wide card payments outage resulting from a software glitch affecting payment card terminals. Payment terminals in Norway went down on May 17, as Norwegians celebrated Constitution Day, causing long queues at ATMs.
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