Business & Economy

Australian telecom operator had no plan for blackout affecting millions

Sydney, Australia, Nov 17 (EFE).- Optus, Australia’s second largest telecommunications company, said Friday that it lacked a crisis plan to face a large-scale blackout like the one that left more than 10 million people without data or internet access earlier this month.

“We did not have a plan for this type of disruption,” Optus network manager Lambo Kanagaratnam said Friday about the Nov. 8 incident before an Australian senate committee, alongside the company’s Chief Executive Kelly Bayer Rosmarin.

Kanagaratnam said the blackout – which lasted more than 12 hours and prevented 228 emergency calls from being made – was unexpected, adding that it took his technical team about six hours to rule out a cyber attack.

The blackout affecting Optus – owned by Singapore telecommunications company Singtel – occurred as a result of a change in routing information following an update to the computer program of one of the company’s internet exchanges.

This update caused Cisco routers to disconnect from the central network to protect themselves from an information overload, so the devices had to be restarted or manually reconnected in some cases.

“The trigger was the Singtel blackout, but the underlying cause was Cisco,” said the executive director of Optus, a company that suffered the theft of data from some 2 million customers in early 2023 as a result of a cyber attack.

The blackout affected more than 38.4 percent of Australia’s population, as well as some 400,000 businesses and government offices, hospitals and transport services, who were unable to make or receive calls, send text messages or access the internet.

Some 8,500 customers and small businesses have requested compensation from Optus for a total value of AUD430,000 ($277,823), although the company has only paid AUD36,000 Rosmarin said.

As a result of this blackout, Optus also faces investigations by the government and the Australian Communications and Media Authority, the government body that regulates the country’s telecommunications sector. EFE


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