Spam attack: Telecom to review email service

By Cassandra Mason

File photo / Thinkstock
File photo / Thinkstock

Telecom has announced it will review its email service following a "series of issues" over the last year, including recent email attacks on Yahoo Xtra customers.

The email attack - believed to have affected up to 450,000 users - began on Saturday morning and saw emails sent to everyone on XtraYahoo users' contact lists, asking them to click on a link directing them to an online advertisement.

Responses to the attack also brought forward customer complaints that the problem did not begin on Saturday, but had been going on for some time.

Telecom CEO retail Chris Quin said the company would be comprehensively reviewing the service over the next few months.

"We share the frustration that our customers have been experiencing over recent months. We fully appreciate that repeatedly saying 'sorry' doesn't cut it anymore. We are committed to taking a close, hard look at the best way to meet our customers' email needs," he said.

"When Telecom outsourced the Xtra email service to Yahoo! in 2007, it was the right thing to do at the time in terms of meeting our customers' desire for an ongoing email service associated with their Telecom broadband account. However, the global email environment has changed markedly since then and we believe the time is right for a comprehensive review of our approach in this area."

Telecom said this morning that password changes appeared to be working in the fight against the two "malicious" email attacks.

Has changing your password solved the problem? Email us here.

But Telecom head of external media Jo Jalfon was confident that the situation was
improving today.

"Signs are pointing that we're heading in the right direction."

Telecom was still encouraging people to change their passwords and this seemed to be working, she said.

It had also been successful for a number of Telecom staff who had Xtra email accounts.

The company, which fielded more than 400 phone calls yesterday, was today receiving fewer complaints, she said.

"Awareness has been pretty high, because certainly the media coverage has been pretty high.

"Some people are ringing in saying, 'Can you just tell me how to do it?'"

Others were just following the link on the website, she said.

"It is a pretty straightforward process."

Jalfon said Telecom was working with Yahoo to find the "root cause" as quickly as possible.

Some New Zealand Herald Online readers have confirmed that things have improved since changing passwords, but others are less convinced.

Mike wrote to say while it was better, he was still receiving the odd "failure" message.

"[It's] possibly because of the delay of a mail server turning them around when an address is invalid," he wrote.

Zoe Adams said she had found that the nature of the spam emails had changed, making them more difficult to identify.

"I received the spam emails with no subject in the subject line as did so many other people. However today there was a twist. I received two emails from friends and there was subject in the subject line so I opened them. It was the spam emails again. They are getting cleverer," she said.

Adams had now changed her password, although it "took a while" as Telecom's password change page was "ironically" having technical difficulties, she said.

Matthew Nowell believed changing his password was futile.

"I changed my password yesterday morning and I still got spam this morning."

He said he hoped Telecom would compensate him for the "time and embarrassment".

Xtra customer Kevin, of Titirangi, said he was still receiving spam.

"I changed my Xtra password yesterday morning. I wouldn't say it has necessarily fixed the problem."

He said some of the emails he had received had come from Indian addresses.

- nzherald.co.nz

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