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Last Updated: Tuesday, 22 May 2007, 11:21 GMT 12:21 UK
Spammers plunder Plusnet e-mail
Spam in e-mail inbox
Spam is a fact of life for most net users
Customers of UK net provider Plusnet have been told to change the password for their account following a break-in by malicious hackers.

In the attack, the hackers gained control of a Plusnet's mail server and stole a list of e-mail addresses.

Spammers used the list to deluge Plusnet customers with junk mail. Some customers may also have been exposed to a computer virus.

Plusnet shut down its webmail system while it tried to remedy the problem.

Some customers of Plusnet started getting a lot more junk e-mail in mid-May following the successful attack early in the month.


Plusnet attributed the attack to a "malicious third party" and said it was not sure how many e-mail addresses the hackers had stolen.

The attack was carried out via Plusnet's webmail service that lets customers get their messages via the net provider's website.

The list of addresses was for accounts customers used to get at the webmail system plus e-mail addresses in the online contacts lists and the addresses used to send e-mail from online accounts.

It said that as a result of the attack some customers may have downloaded a trojan, a type of malicious software.

The annoyance seems tempered by the fact that spam remains a huge problem for most surfers
Mark Jackson, ISP Review

But, it said, they would only have been at risk if their PC had no anti-virus software on it and had no patches installed.

In a statement, Neil Armstrong, products director at Plusnet, said: "After a full security audit, Plusnet's webmail service was taken offline permanently at midday Wednesday, 16 May, as a precaution against a number of minor potential security vulnerabilities that had not been exploited."

In a separate note to customers, Plusnet said it was "impossible" to close these unexploited loopholes.

Mr Armstrong said a replacement webmail service had now been set up for customers to get at their online accounts.

Mark Jackson, editor-in-chief of ISP Review, said of the incident: "Some people have taken it surprisingly well, while many others have been furious to see their once quiet mail folders flooded with junk."

He added: "However, the annoyance seems tempered by the fact that spam remains a huge problem for most surfers."

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