Down and out: National Optus outage was caused by routine software upgrade

Nov 14, 2023
Optus have confirmed that last week's outage was caused by a routine software update. Source: Getty Images

It was heavily suggested that last week’s Optus outage was caused internally rather than being the result of a cyber attack. This has now been confirmed by Optus after last week’s operational disaster eclipsed even their 2022 data breach.

In a statement released yesterday afternoon, an Optus spokesperson confirmed that “changes to the routing information from an international peering network following a routine software upgrade” caused the outage at 4:05 am on Wednesday last week.

“These routing information changes propagated through multiple layers in our network and exceeded preset safety levels on key routers which could not handle these. This resulted in those routers disconnecting from the Optus IP Core network to protect themselves,” the spokesperson said.

“The restoration required a large-scale effort of the team and in some cases required Optus to reconnect or reboot routers physically, requiring the dispatch of people across a number of sites in Australia. This is why restoration was progressive over the afternoon,” they explained.

Put plainly, the faulty software upgrade caused the system to shut itself down and required Optus workers to physically travel across the country in order to restore the system. Optus have acknowledged that the restoration took far longer than expected but have affirmed that restoration of the system was top priority.

“Given the widespread impact of the outage, investigations into the issue took longer than we would have liked as we examined several different paths to restoration. The restoration of the network was at all times our priority and we subsequently established the cause working together with our partners,” said the spokesperson.

While the statement does give some explanation as to why the outage occurred, industry experts have said that Optus should have had sufficient preventive measures to stop the outage from happening.

Optus have said that they have made changes to their system and will invest more money into it in order to avoid any further outages. They also announced that they would compensate affected customers with various offers of free data.

However, this was slammed by the small business ombudsman and various watchdog organizations as “insufficient” and “a hollow gesture”. Optus have since announced they they will set-up a team to handle complaints from small businesses.

A Senate inquiry into the outage has already been announced and the first public hearing will be held on Friday. Optus CEO Bayer Rosmarin will be in attendance and will face significant scrutiny over her handling of the outage.

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