Finally, Internet Banking
Many months ago I wrote in these pages about the great leap forward my bank had taken, and the problems it had caused me. I am referring to my editorial about the Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce's (CIBC) implementation of on-line banking and the issues that prevented me from using their system with OS/2. (Originally, CIBC relied on a proprietary Windows dialer provided by IBM which could be run in a WIN-OS/2 session, but was not as preferable as a native OS/2 solution.)

Since that time, things have continued to improve in the banking industry, and CIBC has been no exception. They, like many other banks in the US and Canada, have implemented a system of Internet banking which relies on a secure, 128-bit encryption-capable WWW browser. For most OS/2 users, this would not be much better than the earlier Windows dialer, since IBM and Netscape are very unfriendly when it comes to requests for the 128-bit encryption version of Navigator for OS/2. Such a program does exist, they will probably tell you, but if you're not an IBM employee, it is just as probable that you will be denied access to it.

Since this was exactly the response I received from IBM (actually, what I received was no response) and since I was truly pining for a Warp-based Internet banking experience, it was with great interest that I discovered some people had found copies of the 128-bit Netscape Navigator for OS/2 outside of IBM. In fact, in the past months I received a few notes pointing me to a program named 'ns2_128_US.zip' on various FTP sites.

Even though IBM wouldn't give me a copy of this program due to "legal issues", Netscape's web site indicates that Canadian citizens are technically allowed under US law to receive 128-bit encryption software, so I felt reasonably safe from prosecution when I downloaded. However, I certainly don't want to encourage others to download software which IBM doesn't want them to have and which may be illegal in their locality, so unfortunately I can't pass on the address for the file. Of course, if the US government and IBM had any wits about them at all, they would realize that a few minutes with some freely accessible FTP search engines will yield this information to anyone interested enough to look.

So, I had finally gotten hold of the elusive 128-bit encryption version of Navigator for OS/2, or so it seemed. What else would my first test of this wonder of wonders be but to log onto my bank and check my account balance? Except this is where I ran into a slight problem: CIBC's server told me that my browser was not acceptable.

The first problem was that CIBC staff erroneously believe that only v3.0 or higher of Navigator can do the tricks they require for "secure banking". A quick modification of my Navigator object's Properties notebook (adding a '-3' to the "Parameters" field) solved that problem. But then I encountered a more serious setback. CIBC still wouldn't let me into their main PC Banking page, claiming that my browser did not have Javascript enabled. The problem was, I did Javascript enabled. I visited a few sites that I knew to use Javascript (such as www.os2ezine.com) and checked my options notebook to make sure, but no matter what I did, CIBC still insisted I did not have a Javascript-enabled browser.

This was less than encouraging, but I decided to give the bank's tech support a call. Sadly, my pessimism seemed well-founded, as the staff told me they had no idea what the problem was and suggested that I use the Windows version of Navigator.

This would have been less frustrating if a reader hadn't contacted me and told me that a competing bank, mbanx, had a similar system that worked perfectly with the 128-bit encryption version of Navigator for OS/2.

Feeling a little angry, I called CIBC back to tell them that their competition had its act together and that they should fix the problem or lose a customer. This is roughly the conversation we had:

Me: Who should I contact to lodge an official complaint/suggestion about my browser not being recognized by your PC Banking web site?

Staff: Well, there isn't really anything wrong, it's just that the OS/2 browser probably doesn't have the same level of Javascript that the Win3.x browser does. You should use the Windows browser.

(Note that the person I was speaking with didn't actually have a copy of the 128-bit encryption version of Netscape Navigator for OS/2 to test this, it was just a theory he and his colleague had come up with.)

Me: Uh, yeah, but like I told you, a friend of mine has the exact same OS/2 browser and he is using it to access mbanx with no problems.

Staff: Yes, but we're not mbanx. This is just the way that CIBC has set up their PC Banking network.

Me: That's what I'm trying to tell you. This is what we know for sure:

    1. There are at least 2 ways to set up such a network
    2. mbanx has chosen one way, CIBC has chosen another
    3. mbanx's way works with everyone's browsers, CIBC's does not

Therefore, I conclude that you have made the wrong decision, thus excluding some users (notably, me). Who do I contact to tell them that I'm unhappy with this and that I would like it changed?

Staff: Well, it's like I said, there's not really any problem, if you use a Windows browser in a WIN-OS/2 session, everything should work properly.

Me: (Sigh.) Right, but who do I contact to tell them that I don't like that; that I want to use my choice of browser, not yours?

Staff: Um... Well, there is a "feedback" link on our web site and if you use that to send a message, it will be seen by someone who will respond.

Me (to myself): (Yeah, right.) Thanks, goodbye. -click-

This is all pretty typical and I'm sure anyone who has ever called a tech support line has experienced something similar. But the story doesn't end there.

Ironically, there never was a problem at all with the OS/2 browser I had procured. The problem was entirely in the CIBC web validation form.

In a moment of clarity I wondered if the browser would work -- or mostly work -- if I could just get past the web page that checked for Javascript. Using a Windows browser, I went to the login page and bookmarked the URL. Then, using the OS/2 browser, I jumped directly to that page, bypassing the Javascript validation form. As you can guess, everything worked (and still works) perfectly. The "Javascript problem" was entirely fictitious, created by the network "wizard" who set up CIBC's Javascript confirmation page.

I called CIBC back on December 5th and told my whole story and suggested that they might want to make note in case someone else had similar problems. Ironically, they told me that they were removing the Javascript confirmation form the following week because, "people using Internet Explorer v4.0 were having the same problem." (You should note though, as of December 16th, the Javascript validation form was still on the WWW, preventing me from using the "front door" to PC Banking.)

So, I was left shaking my head at two things:

1. The irony that Microsoft has changed their browser in a way that has inadvertently allowed me to use my bank more easily with an OS/2 browser; and

2. The fact that the person I originally explained the problem to refused to simply tell me that other people had also had the same problem and that, in fact, the network administrators had already resolved to make a change because of this. Why was I forced to solve the problem myself and make two separate calls to find this out?

Oh well, at least now I can check my bank balance in a native OS/2 session.

Copyright © 1997 - Falcon Networking ISSN 1203-5696