Telstra glitch sends personal SMS messages to random recipients after fire at exchange

Telstra customers are experiencing widespread disruptions. Photo: Craig Sillitoe
Telstra customers are experiencing widespread disruptions. Photo: Craig Sillitoe

Personal SMS messages of Telstra customers were sent to random recipients on competing networks across Australia on Thursday afternoon in a huge potential security breach for the telco.

Unwitting phone users across Australia took to Twitter to express confusion about receiving random SMS messages from about 3pm.

"I could have broken this guy's deal wide open," said Twitter user @IggyBusby, on receiving details of someone's business strategy that included the phrases "hold off on the" and "still in discussions with".

Other users received similarly perplexing messages.

Many online services rely on SMS messaging to deliver critical confidential information such as new pin numbers and links for resetting passwords, including banking and email services.

Thirty per cent of customers were affected, Telstra chief executive Andy Penn said.

Telstra shut down its text messaging service when it realised SMS messages were being misdirected. Investigations into how the privacy breach occurred were ongoing, Mr Penn said.

The glitch occurred after a fire broke out at the Chatswood Exchange in Sydney some time after midday, damaging power equipment.

"There's not much we can do about a fire occurring," Mr Penn said.

Users on website www.aussieoutages.com complained of outages of landline, mobile and NBN services from Australia's biggest telecommunications company.

The outage map on the site indicated that all states and territories were affected.

Screenshot from outage website aussieoutages.com.

Businesses were also affected by the outage, including Jetstar and Circus Royale.

Telstra customers took to Twitter and websites from 1.11pm to express their grievances over outages, which included mobile, landline and internet services.

In an unrelated incident, the official website for the Australian Taxation Office crashed on Thursday morning.

At 3.09pm, Telstra announced services were beginning to return to normal.

About 3.25pm, Jetstar announced its systems were back online after manual check-in was used at several airports during the outage.

The incident follows a fire last year at another exchange in Brunswick, Melbourne, caused by faulty wiring.

While customers were offered compensation in the form of "free data days" after last year's incident, Mr Penn said there were no plans to offer compensation to customers after Thursday's outage.

Do you know more? Contact Richard McLeish here.

With Broede Carmody

This story Telstra glitch sends personal SMS messages to random recipients after fire at exchange first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.