Locked Down, Planning For the Worst

MasterCard and Nasdaq emphasize common sense disaster prevention and preparedness techniques.

When it comes to preparing for terrorist attacks, two companies in the financial services industry, MasterCard International Inc. and the Nasdaq Stock Market Inc., are locking up their facilities and planning for the worst.

MasterCard has had its disaster recovery plan in place since 1990, with continuous tests and revisions since then. Rather than compel MasterCard to redo its recovery plans, what 9/11 did do is force the payment system giant to step back and re-evaluate its current plans.

For example, with the anthrax threat that followed the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, Randy Till, vice president of global business continuity management at MasterCard, moved all mail out of MasteCards corporate offices and have it processed offsite.

MasterCard also brought in an outside consulting firm to evaluate each of its global facilities for security risks.

"If you look at business continuity its an ongoing process, it is something you are continually doing," said Till, in Purchase, N.Y. "We stepped back and said what is it we have on our plate. Based on what we think are new threats, we reprioritized our projects."

MasterCard has two data centers, one that backs up the other. In the event of an attack, they would recover the remaining facility (assuming only one was attacked) using a tiered approach, bringing up critical systems first.

"We dont want to bring everything up right away, it would be too much," said Till. "So every system has a timed recovery, so if a system doesnt need to be recovered for 24 hours, it wont be recovered until then."

Till said that from a network point of view, he assumes it will continue to operate with recovery being focused more on MasterCards central processing site.

MasterCards payments processing network was originally built for redundancy and alternate routing capabilities. As a result, if a part of the network encounters problems, traffic can be automatically rerouted following alternative paths. MasterCard has also employed an alternate recovery site allowing it to transfer its data center operations in response to any emergency. There are two primary processing centers in the U.S. and others overseas, according to Till.

Meanwhile, Nasdaq is essentially a floorless stock exchange, trading shares in 4,100 companies via a network of computers and telecommunications gear.