Privacy concerns as Telstra customers hit in nationwide outage

Telstra experienced outages across Australia after a fire.

Telstra experienced outages across Australia after a fire. Photo: AAP

Telstra’s nationwide outage has prompted widespread privacy concerns after many customers reported being inundated with text messages from strangers, while their own SMS messages went missing.

Telstra CEO Andy Penn apologised for the network outage at a media conference, describing the misdirected text messages as an “extraordinarily unusual” event.

“I’ve never known that to happen before,” Mr Penn said.

Telstra was forced to shut down text messaging, keeping its customers’ SMS’s in a holding pattern to be sent later.

Mr Penn said it is unknown how many users were affected by the misdirected texts.

“We don’t know the extent of that but the action we immediately took was to safeguard customers’ privacy. We closed the SMS platform down until we could basically reroute that and ensure the integrity of the messages,” he said.

In a statement, Telstra said the fire had damaged infrastructure at the exchange.

“A fire at the Chatswood Exchange in Sydney this afternoon has been contained, but damage has been caused to some power infrastructure,” it read.

“As a result a number of customers are experiencing loss of service. Our technicians are currently completing a full assessment of the impact. We will provide more information as soon as it is available.”

Customers reported outages to mobile and fixed services, with website Aussie Outages recording almost 6500 customer complaints just at its peak on Thursday.

The outage map shows the states and territories affected.

Telstra Outage

Telstra customers across the country have been affected by the outage. Photo: Aussie Outages

Jetstar’s passenger check-in system also came to a standstill in airports across the country, while NAB warned its online customers of delays to SMS alerts.

Jetstar confirmed on Twitter the outage had caused delays to nine of its Australian flights by at least 45 minutes and check in for some flights were paused.

Meanwhile, the Hunter Line in NSW was also shut down as a result of the network failure, with customers forced to switch to buses and warned of long delays, according to The Daily Telegraph.

Customers tweeted their outrage from around Australia, including Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane.

Residents in Canberra, Western Australia, NSW and parts of regional South Australia were also affected.

Telstra, which this week retained its ranking as Australia’s most valuable brand in a global survey, was hit by seven outages in 2016.

It’s unknown how many customers have been affected.

Just after 3pm, Telstra said their services were “beginning to restore”, an hour after the initial outage.

The telco also had a related issue impacting SMS messaging. All text messages were kept in a holding pattern after customers were reportedly inundated with random messages from unknown numbers.

At around 5.45pm Telstra stated all services, including SMS, had been restored.

Australian Taxation Office website crash

The official website for the Australian Taxation Office crashed on Thursday morning in an unrelated incident.

Telstra outage

An error message greeted visitors to the ATO website. Photo: ATO

The ATO confirmed at 11am on Thursday the issues were related to the one that saw its site go offline for more than two days in December last year.

“The ATO is experiencing issues relating to the hardware faults that occurred in December. We are replacing the affected hardware, but this process will take some time,” the statement said.

“No taxpayer information has been lost or compromised and all available resources are working to resolve this as a priority.”

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