Optus could face multi-million-pound legal consequences following a catastrophic network failure after health services were disrupted across the country.
The beleaguered telecommunications company suffered a meltdown weeks after its senior executives, including CEO Kelly Bayer-Rosmarin, faced a Senate inquiry as well as a class action lawsuit brought in the Federal Court over a massive data breach last September.
Last week’s outage paralyzed millions of customers who were left without mobile phones and Internet coverage for many hours.
Optus could face multi-million-pound legal consequences following a catastrophic network failure after healthcare services were disrupted across the country
CEO Kelly Bayer-Rosmarin (pictured) witnessed a Senate investigation as well as a class action lawsuit brought in the Federal Court over last year’s massive data breach
Thousands of businesses were also affected – some losing thousands of dollars as Optus call-based payment systems failed.
It even affected Victoria’s rail system, with Metro Trains revealing that the outage prevented its control center from communicating with trains.
Legal expert Samantha Pillay said the failure not only left healthcare providers vulnerable to legal action, but also left Optus open to consequences for providers seeking to recoup any losses.
“Providers reported that telehealth appointments were canceled, on-call obstetricians and anesthesiologists could not be contacted, and triple 0 emergency calling services were unavailable from landlines,” said Pillay, director of insurance and health at law firm Barry Nilsson .
Thousands of businesses were also affected – some losing thousands of dollars as Optus call-based payment systems failed
“The impact of events like this could be much greater in the future as healthcare delivery increasingly moves online to make it more accessible to rural and regional communities.”
Ramsay Health Care said telephone services across the country were knocked out during the nationwide blackout.
The South Australian Department of Health said the damage affected hospital switchboards.
Phone lines at other Melbourne hospitals – including Northern Hospital Epping, Broadmeadows Hospital, Bundoora Centre, Craigieburn Centre, Kilmore District Hospital and the Victorian Virtual Emergency Department (VVED) – also had their phone lines affected.
Ms Pillay said new technologies in the health sector had enabled doctors to monitor patients’ vital signs and track important factors such as blood pressure and glucose levels.
They would be automatically notified when a patient’s condition worsens.
Legal expert Samantha Pillay said the failure not only exposed healthcare providers to legal action but also left Optus open to consequences for providers seeking to recoup any losses
Last week’s outage paralyzed millions of customers who were left without mobile phones and Internet coverage for many hours
Ms Pillay said failures of these technologies due to network outages such as Optus could lead to “serious or even catastrophic harm” to patients, especially in regional or rural communities.
“On the one hand, health care providers can take action to recover losses incurred by their operations,” she said.
On the other hand, they can take into account claims from patients who suffered damage as a result of the event.
“Even after the Federal Government and Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) investigation into the Optus outage, these types of black swan events are likely to continue to occur as new technologies evolve and our reliance on them increases.
“In the near future, telesurgery, powered by next-generation 5G technology, could become a reality in Australia.
“But what happens when a surgeon thousands of miles away, perhaps in another country, is excluded from real-time remote surgery due to a telecommunications failure.”
On Monday, Optus revealed that the nationwide outage was caused by changes to “routing information” following a software update at the telecommunications company.
On Monday, Optus revealed the cause was a nationwide blackout through changes in “routing information” after a software update at a telecommunications company.
Last Wednesday, approximately 10.2 million customers had no internet or mobile phone access for approximately 13.5 hours.
Services went down around 4:05 a.m. and were not fully restored until 5:35 p.m.
In a statement, Optus said their network “received changes to routing information from an international peer network following a routine software update.”
“These changes to routing information spread through multiple layers of our network and exceeded preset security levels on key routers that were unable to handle them,” the statement said.
“This resulted in these routers disconnecting from the Optus IP Core network to protect themselves.”
Optus said the restoration required reconnecting or physically restarting routers at multiple locations across Australia.
“Therefore, the reconstruction took place gradually throughout the afternoon,” their statement said.
Optus has since apologized to customers, offering eligible postpaid customers 200GB of extra data as part of a compensation offer.
Optus said the restoration required reconnecting or physically restarting routers at multiple locations across Australia
A disastrous week for the telecoms company has only gotten worse, with the chaotic outage reported to a Senate inquiry chaired by Green Party communications spokeswoman Sarah Hanson-Young.
Optus vice-president of regulatory and public affairs Andrew Sheridan said the company would cooperate with any proposed reviews by the Australian Federal Communications Department and ACMA into the network outage.
“As a critical infrastructure provider, we understand the importance of ensuring service continuity, and any lessons learned are likely to be helpful to both Optus and others in our industry,” he said in a statement.
Australian business network reports Optus could be forced to pay up to $400 million in compensation if it signs an agreement with the regulator.
In addition, thousands of customers joined the class action lawsuit against telecommunications companies after their personal data was hacked in 2022.
Up to nine million Australians were affected by the data breach, which exposed their names, dates of birth, phone numbers, email addresses and, for some customers, addresses and ID numbers such as driving license or passport numbers.
The hacker believed to be behind the attack demanded a ransom of $1.5 million on the forum in exchange for the return of the data.
However, strangely enough, the post was deleted and the author apologized for his actions.
The class action lawsuit filed by Slater and Gordon alleged that Optus “failed to protect the personal data of its current and former customers and failed to take reasonable steps to protect it.”
“The type of information shared puts affected customers at greater risk of fraud and identity theft, and Optus should have put in place appropriate measures to prevent this,” said class action practice group leader Ben Hardwick.
‘Worryingly, the data breach also potentially threatened the security of a large number of particularly vulnerable groups of Optus customers, such as victims of domestic violence, stalking and other crimes, as well as those working in frontline professions, including the armed forces and police.’
An Optus spokeswoman said: “As matters are currently before the court, we will not be making any further comment at this time.”