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Virgin Mobile 'investigating' voicemail debacle

Virgin Mobile still doesn't know what caused customers to get access to strangers' voicemails, but is "investigating" the issue.

Michelle Starr Science editor
Michelle Starr is CNET's science editor, and she hopes to get you as enthralled with the wonders of the universe as she is. When she's not daydreaming about flying through space, she's daydreaming about bats.
Michelle Starr
2 min read
Virgin Mobile

An incident that occurred last week that saw Australian Virgin Mobile users getting random access to each other's voicemail accounts is yet to be resolved. However, Virgin Mobile is investigating the issue to try and determine what caused the mix-up.

"We can confirm when we became aware of the issue, we deactivated our voicemail service whilst our team investigated and reactivated this when we were confident the issue was resolved," Virgin Mobile said in an email to CNET.

The incident occurred on the morning of Tuesday, August 16. Customers attempting to log in to check their voicemails by dialling 212 were either referred to a random stranger's away message and asked to leave them a voicemail, or a random stranger's message bank with full access to be able to listen to and delete messages.

They could not access their own voicemail messages, nor determine whose voicemail messages they were accessing. No PINs were required to hear these voicemail messages. This continued for several hours before Virgin Mobile deactivated voicemail across all its customers.

"During this time and while the technology team worked to resolve the issue as quickly as possible, we took measures to ensure customers were informed and assure them that their privacy and security is of the utmost importance," Virgin Mobile said.

"Our social channels were monitored closely and enquiries responded to, and our community pages were also updated. We are continuing to work closely with all appropriate official channels to fully investigate the issue to ensure this does not happen again and this remains our main priority."

A spokesperson for ACCAN told CNET that it would be difficult for customers affected by this incident to make a privacy complaint to the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner. This is because it's difficult, if not impossible, to tell if a stranger had been given access to one's voicemail messages. Moreover, Virgin Mobile acted swiftly to resolve the issue.

"Virgin has resolved the issue and has acted transparently by apologising to affected customers and setting out the steps it took to protect consumer data during resolution. Because of Virgin's positive actions, a complaint to the OAIC may be less likely to be taken up," the spokesperson said.

ACCAN noted, though, that small businesses might be able to make a claim.

"Consumers who suffer a loss or fear they may suffer a loss as a result of the breach could consider claiming compensation for this loss from Virgin Mobile. See ACCAN's guide to claiming compensation for more information."