Telstra blames e-mail delays on virus

In the latest instalment of its e-mail service saga, Telstra has placed the blame for ongoing e-mail troubles across its BigPond service on a dramatic surge in e-mail traffic caused by the Swen worm.

According to a press statement issued yesterday, Telstra claimed a large number of junk e-mails resulting from the Swen worm (worm_swen.a) had increased the amount of traffic across its network by over 20 per cent.

"Telstra's technical staff have been working around the clock to establish additional network capacity to cater for the unexpected and unprecedented increase in e-mail traffic," a company statement reads.

"This additional capacity is expected to deliver gradual improvements to customers who many be experiencing delays with e-mail."

No timeframe, however, has yet been determined as to when services across the BigPond network will return to normal.

The Swen worm, also referred to as Win32.Swen.A, disguises itself as a Windows update bulletin e-mail from Microsoft. The e-mail features an attachment, with either a .com, .scr,.bat,.pif or .exe file extension. Once activated, the worm copies itself to the computer user's Windows directory, and propagates by targeting e-mail addresses listed in the directory.

Each of the e-mails created and dispatched by the Swen worm are 150KB in size -- the equivalent of an e-mail containing an image, Telstra said.

Telstra's decision to attribute the poor performance of its BigPond service on the Swen worm follows a plague of technical glitches and service dropouts across the network.

For several weeks Telstra BigPond customers have been complaining of being unable to receive e-mails, with some saying e-mails were taking up to a week to arrive in their in-boxes after being sent. Many have also experienced delays with sending e-mails from their BigPond account, and Web pages have been slow to load.

Earlier this week, Telstra spokesperson Kerrina Lawrence told PC World the e-mail service delays were the result of a "software glitch". According to Lawrence, a software bug had caused problems with the delivery and receipt of e-mails for BigPond customers. Lawrence said the fault had been repaired and that its mail service was functioning normally.

Additional problems had hit BigPond's e-mail platform as the result of faulty software from a third party vendor, Lawrence said. While not providing specifics in regards to the problem, Lawrence said the software had "artificially increased the load" on the ISP's e-mail platform. This resulted in a decrease in speed from incoming/outgoing mail, along with timeout errors.

Again, this problem has since been fixed and should not be contributing to any further delays for BigPond customers, she said.

The question now remains whether Telstra will compensate its customers for the continued delays with the service.

Previously, Telstra told PC World between 400,000 to 500,000 e-mails are sent or received across its network every day.

Telstra had not responded to PC World's questions about the worm at the time of posting. However, the company is believed to be making a formal announcement - either by press release or a media briefing -- later this afternoon.

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