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Optus CEO talks up ‘strange coincidences’ and possible cyber attack during day-long outage

Kelly Bayer Rosmarin says the company spent hours determining if the outage was caused by cyber activity during a Singtel board visit.

user icon David Hollingworth
Fri, 17 Nov 2023
Optus CEO talks up ‘strange coincidences’ and possible cyber attack during day-long outage
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Optus chief executive Kelly Bayer Rosmarin fronted a senate hearing today (17 November), facing a grilling over the 14-hour-long outage that took down Optus’ countrywide networks last week.

In between justifying her actions and response to the incident, and the efforts of Optus engineers to get the network back online, she also noted that there were some similarities between the outage and the company’s headline-making 2022 data breach.

“When we had the cyber incident was the last time the Singtel board was in town, and they were in town again,” Rosmarin told the Senate on Friday.

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“So that is a weird coincidence, and so whilst they’ve ruled out the denial-of-service attack, as one technical type of cyber attack, there were other vectors of cyber malicious activity and threat intelligence that we were chasing down, and it took the team until 10.20 to be able to confirm that, but it was a very serious concern for us in those hours up until 10.20.”

Rosmarin also addressed Singtel’s response to reporting that Optus was laying blame for the fault on a Singtel update.

“As you can appreciate, we’re dealing with a very complex technical fault here. And what we had tried to explain was that the root cause of the issue was that our Cisco routers hit a failsafe mechanism,” Rosmarin said.

“Which meant that each one of them independently shut down – the trigger event that led to that was the upgrade on the Singtel international peering network.

“We had put out the statement, which then got interpreted by various commentators as being that the root cause was the Singtel upgrade, where the trigger was the Singtel upgrade, but the root cause was the routers. So that is what has been attempted to be clarified.”

Lambo Kanagaratnam, managing director of networks at Optus, was also present and instead said the outage was solely an internal matter.

“The outage was as a result of our defences for the change in our routing information not working as it should have been, and that’s something obviously we’ve addressed,” Kanagaratnam said.

“And we’ve worked around the clock to ensure that we address all the issues that we found.”

David Hollingworth

David Hollingworth

David Hollingworth has been writing about technology for over 20 years, and has worked for a range of print and online titles in his career. He is enjoying getting to grips with cyber security, especially when it lets him talk about Lego.

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