Caution urged after charity's phones hacked

Community organisations are being advised to make sure their phone and computer systems are protected, after a small non-profit group based in Dunedin was targeted by hackers.

In April, the Otago Multiple Sclerosis Society's phone system was hacked into and about $2000 of international phone calls were made.

MS Otago manager Tania McGregor said the hack happened on a Sunday and she only became aware of it on the Monday morning.

During the hack, international calls were made to the Pacific Island Nauru.

''I guess you would think something like this happening to a big corporate but not a small organisation like us at the bottom of the South Island.''

Mrs McGregor said they were lucky to have an IT provider who knew what was happening and was able to shut it down straight away.

''$2000 is a lot of money for a small not-for-profit but it could have been much worse if we didn't stop it when we did.''

MS Otago was now talking to Vodafone about how it could resolve the bill.

Onecall ITC consultant Shane Ross stopped the hack from continuing, and said this was the first time he had heard of a attack like this happening in Dunedin.

''There had been a few rumours about similar type of attacks in Auckland but until now we had never heard about it happening down here.''

It seemed a computer system had been set up to find a weakness in phone systems and then exploit that, Mr Ross said.

He said he was unsure of the reason behind the attack but he believed MS Otago's phone system was being used to hack into another phone system.

The simplest thing any company could do to avoid the same thing happening to them was put a pin and toll bar in place, he said.

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