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Friday, 01 June 2018 05:40

Vocus customer's system hacked, used to swamp triple-zero service Featured


Australia's triple-zero service was hit by a malicious attack last weekend, with up to 600 calls at a time made through a customer of telco Vocus, with the attacker flooding the number during three short periods between 6.09am and 7.55am.

Fairfax Media reported that the incident had raised questions about Telstra's reaction to the situation as it meant some who called the number had to wait as much as nine hours to be called back.

During the incident, operators who answered triple-zero calls directed them to a recorded service to confirm if they were genuine.

Vocus said in a statement to iTWire: "Analysis identified that one of our customers PABX systems was compromised, enabling an external party to attempt international toll fraud.

"Pre-defined fraud filters meant that algorithmically generated attempts to dial international numbers failed and the attempt was aborted."

But the company said many of the calls included a “000” prefix which were routed to emergency services. It said that steps had been taken to prevent another such occurrence.

"Toll fraud is a significant problem and can be complex and time consuming to resolve. Vocus takes fraud awareness very seriously and works closely with customers to assist them to keep their business safe from toll fraud attacks," Vocus said.

This is the second incident to affect triple-zero services in May. A damaged cable caused an outage on 4 May, and the Australian Communications and Media Authority is conducting an inquiry into the incident.

Telstra has to comply with the Telecommunications (Emergency Call Service) Determination 2009 and the Emergency Call Service Requirements Industry Code C526:2011, according to the ACMA.

A breach of the Determination could result in a fine of $250,000 per breach. Future compliance could be sought through a court-enforceable undertaking.

The Fairfax report said Telstra was required to inform other telecommunications operators about events like this under the Emergency Call Service Code.

It said other providers were only informed of the 26 May incident after 5.30pm. Telstra has been contacted for comment.

An Optus spokesperson told iTWire that Telstra had informed it on Saturday evening of a triple-zero issue which may have affected Optus customers.

iTWire has also contacted Vodafone to inquire when it was notified about the incident.

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Sam Varghese

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Sam Varghese has been writing for iTWire since 2006, a year after the site came into existence. For nearly a decade thereafter, he wrote mostly about free and open source software, based on his own use of this genre of software. Since May 2016, he has been writing across many areas of technology. He has been a journalist for nearly 40 years in India (Indian Express and Deccan Herald), the UAE (Khaleej Times) and Australia (Daily Commercial News (now defunct) and The Age). His personal blog is titled Irregular Expression.

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