September 28, 2012

Paying the Water Bill

I had trouble paying my water bill yesterday. As is the case with most bills, I don’t write a check to Pennsylvania American Water anymore. Instead, I use on-line bill paying from my PNC Bank checking account. It was almost 6:30 PM, and I was trying to pay the bill before ABC World News with Diane Sawyer came on the air.

PNC Bank logoI typed in the URL of the bank, waited a long time, and received the message that the browser request was taking too long. I tried several times again. I glanced at my cable modem, and I tried downloading e-mail. Everything seemed fine, but I still could not load the home page for the bank.

Finally, I managed to load a page that said that the bank was performing maintenance, but the page did allow me to log in to my account. Paying my bill was tedious, since every operation was taking longer than usual, but I eventually completed the transaction.

By this time, the news was just beginning on the television. The first story was about computer attacks targeting American banks. PNC was currently under attack, the reporter said. I became concerned. I was quickly reassured, however. The attack was a denial of service attack—irritating, but nothing endangering my money. I relaxed. The report from ABC News was certainly timely!

I had no clue that such attacks were occurring. I wasn’t exactly oblivious to current events, but I was deeply involved in perfecting a motion by the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh’s Committee on Constitution and Canons to be presented at the upcoming diocesan convention. This morning, I noticed that reports of the attack were available long before I tried to log in.

Like many people, I rely on the Internet for so many everyday tasks. It is very disconcerting when it fails to deliver the services we’ve come to take for granted.


  1. Apparently these Denial-of-Service attacks are fairly easy if you have access to a significant number of networked computers. The idea is that, well, zillions of log-on requests assault the website, overwhelming its capacity. Newspaper this morning says the source was Middle Eastern, possibly with the technical support of Iran. Sort of a postlude to their President's speech at the U.N., I guess.

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