Pat Pilcher: Should Xtra dump Yahoo?

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How many more email outages, hacks and other screw ups need to happen before Telecom finally brings Xtra email back in-house?

It's January 2014 and there's yet another issue with Yahoo, Xtra's email provider. Over the years, problems have plagued Xtra's email service, ever since Telecom outsourced it to Yahoo, leading many to wonder if the savings made by outsourcing the move were ever really worth it.

In this latest outage, an estimated 400,000 YahooXtra account-holders have had their email compromised by hackers and carnage is spreading as emails with links to malware are being sent from compromised Xtra email accounts to unsuspecting non-Xtra internet users. I received one yesterday - thankfully I didn't click the link.

Telecom's outsourcing of Xtra's email service to Yahoo started in 2007 and has been plagued by issues since.

Their woes began with the Bubble debacle back in 2007, which took place during Telecom's changeover from from MSN to Yahoo.

Problems started for Xtra customers when Xtra's email addresses were moved to Yahoo's email servers in Australia. In order to access their Yahoo!Xtra Bubble email, Xtra customers had to first change a bunch of settings.

This quickly grew into a nightmare for many Xtra users, most of whom also fell victim to Yahoo's anti-spam policies which saw emails lost or delayed.

In early 2013 Telecom reviewed their Yahoo relationship after what NetSafe said at the time was New Zealand's biggest phishing attack (estimates vary but it it is estimated that just under 90,0000 Xtra/Yahoo accounts were compromised). Telecom decided to stay the course and stick with Yahoo. Now its 2014 and history seems to be repeating.

Even if Telecom decide to stay with Yahoo (and so far there are no indications that they'll do otherwise), one possible solution is to start using a free email service such as outlook.com or Gmail.

The biggest benefit of a free email account for Xtra customers is that they'll not only avoid more Yahoo/Xtra email grief, but their email stays, even should they move to another ISP. Gmail and Outlook are also optimised for web browser use and both are also part of a wider ecosystem that offers cloud storage, office productivity apps and voice/video chat apps.

While us non-Xtra internet users can smugly sit and watch from the sidelines, we should beware that if we receive an email from an acquaintance who is an Xtra user containing nothing but a link, don't click the link, instead reply to the sender, and ask them if the link is legit.

At the end of the day however, the big question becomes this: How many more email outages, hacks and other screw ups need to happen before Telecom finally brings Xtra email back in-house?

- NZ Herald

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