Internet service provider Virgin Net has resorted to using snail mail to inform its subscribers of a security breach that forced it to suspend email for a quarter of its customers at the weekend.
Virgin Net said it discovered a potential security breach last Thursday that could have compromised the security of a small number of its customers. On Saturday night Virgin disabled incoming email and website uploading for around 170,000 customers.
Customers who tried to log on during the last two days were prompted to change their passwords to restore full service. For those customers who haven't yet see the prompt, or the notice on Virgin's website, a letter explaining the problem is in the post.
"We are notifying subscribers concerned via Royal Mail and as a precaution have blocked access to their email accounts," the company said in a statement on its support site.
Virgin refused to comment on the exact details of the incident. A spokesman said the police are investigating the incident and said it would be unhelpful to speculate while the investigation was under way.
"There was the potential for a very small number [of breaches] that we knew of for certain. But it was really a precautionary measure," said the Virgin spokesman.
Alex Heath, managing director of Virgin Net, said in a statement: "As customer security is our first priority we are taking the matter very seriously indeed."
Customers rely on their ISPs to protect the security of their accounts. Stolen passwords could give intruders access to a user's confidential email or let them interfere with a user's website.
Last June the email addresses and passwords of around 100 subscribers to The Sun newspaper's Internet service, Currantbun.com (now called bun.com), were published by a hacker on a widely read Internet newsgroup.
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