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COMMONWEALTH OF AUSTRALIA (ABN: 122 104 616)
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17 May 2013
Oops: Google search reveals private Telstra customer data
The personal information of thousands of Telstra customers has been found online using a Google search.
Lee Gaywood, 31, of Chelsea Heights in Victoria, contacted
Fairfax Media about the information being freely accessible to anyone
online after conducting a specific Google search that turned up Telstra
The owner of marketing business SMS Broadcast, Mr Gaywood said he found the data when he was searching Google for telco carrier access codes, which he needs to know for his SMS service to work.
Data discovered included customer names, telephone numbers and in some cases home and business addresses.
"I couldn't really believe what I was looking at when I found the
data," Mr Gaywood said. "I've worked in telcos before and I know that
this sort of data should be kept very private and customers would expect
it to be secured."
He said he stumbled across the data after entering into the
Google search field "Telstra" and two other search terms, which Fairfax
has chosen not to name as the spreadsheets may still be cached on
Google's search engine.
Telstra took the files offline after being notified of the breach by Fairfax at about 4pm on Wednesday.
Fairfax found approximately 1677 customer records in one of
the spreadsheets, which contained Telstra customers' names, phone
numbers, plan names and home addresses. A further three spreadsheets
contained 8201 customer records that contained only names and telephone
numbers, but not home addresses.
The spreadsheets also contained internal Telstra reference
numbers relating to customer accounts. Other internal Telstra training
documents were also found online via a similar Google search to Mr
The data appeared to be hosted on a server not belonging to Telstra but a third-party it uses.
Telstra executive director of customer service, Peter
Jamieson, thanked Fairfax for alerting it to the issue. He said the
breach was "concerning" and that the data should not have been in the
"This is unacceptable," Mr Jamieson said. "We take very
seriously the confidentiality of our customers' information and we will
take all steps to ensure we protect that information. [I'm] very
disappointed about the fact that we have made available information
about our customers on this occasion."
Telstra was investigating exactly how the data was made available outside of its network, he said.
He added that the data appeared to be in some cases several years old but that it didn't excuse it to be online.
Australian IT security researcher Troy Hunt said
some of the customers whose telephone numbers were listed in the
spreadsheets may have had silent numbers which they would have wanted to
have been kept private.
He said the customer data could potentially be used by
someone with malicious intent to socially engineer, or trick, a Telstra
call centre representative into disclosing more customer information.
For example, the data could enable a person to "establish
authenticity" with a Telstra call centre, Mr Hunt said, especially
considering the data confirmed a person was a customer and also revealed
what plan they were on.
Telstra hasn't had the best track record for keeping customer
information private and has had a number of customer data breaches in
recent years. The number of privacy breaches it has had prompted its
CEO, David Thodey, to email all staff in July last year telling them
that breaches "must not happen again".
He said breaches were affecting the telco's reputation and
said staff should inform their manager "as a matter of urgency" should
they have concerns with anything that threatens the privacy of Telstra's
"We take very seriously the confidentiality of our
customers' information".... we make a fortune packaging it up and on
selling it and we dont want people able to access it via a simple google
Commenter Dan Location Melbourne Date and time May 16, 2013, 12:29PM
And Telstra wants us to trust their cloud computing. Major
outage on Apr 3. Just waiting for them to have major data breach highly
sensitive customers data. Can we even trust them with our video
Commenter mtb Date and time May 16, 2013, 11:00AM
Also there is this one:
Shows how big companies look after your information, they don't care. we are just fodder so pay our bills and shut up ..
Commenter Robo 1955 Location Date and time May 16, 2013, 3:35PM