More than 10 million Australians were left without internet and phone services on Wednesday after unexplained outages by one of the country’s largest telecommunications companies.
Phone operator Optus said it was scrambling to find and fix faults that knocked out electronic payment systems and that emergency services disrupted phone lines.
Kelly Bayer, the company’s executive director, told ABC’s national channel ABC that the outage was the result of a hack or cyber attack.
“Our team continues to explore all possible avenues. We had several hypotheses, each of which, we tested and implemented new actions, did not solve the underlying problem,” explained Ms Bayer Rosmarin.
“Once we determine the root cause and the recovery period, we will notify everyone as soon as possible,” he added.
The Australian government said mobile and landline phones and broadband internet were affected.
Optus, Australia’s second largest phone and internet service provider, said it detected the outage at 4:05am local time. More than seven hours later, widespread problems still plagued the network.
Dozens of hospitals were unable to receive phone calls, and landlines on the Optus network were unable to reach emergency services.
The New South Wales state poison helpline has also been affected.
According to operating company Metro Trains Melbourne, rush hour was chaos in Melbourne after a “communications failure” disrupted train services.
An Optus spokesperson said in an earlier statement: “Our teams are working to restore services as soon as possible. Optus sincerely apologizes to its customers.”
Australian Communications Minister Michelle Rowland said the Optus outage was caused by a “deep failure” in a “core” part of the company’s network.
The outages come a year after the personal data of more than nine million Optus customers was stolen in a cyber attack.
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