Rogue Xtra staffer forces Voyager chief out of house

A rogue Telecom Xtra employee has threatened the director of Xtra's main competitor--and his wife and family--in anonymous phone calls and by using forged email messages.

A rogue Telecom Xtra employee has threatened the director of Xtra’s main competitor--and his wife and family--in anonymous phone calls and by using forged email messages.

In investigating the latest and strangest twist to the ISP wars--which saw Voyager MD John O’Hara move his family out of their home--@IDG has discovered that the same employee has also been posting abusive messages online while posing as an IDG staff member and even as the Prime Minister. IDG is publisher of @IDG

O’Hara has refused to comment, saying the matter is “in the hands of the police”. A spokesman for the Newmarket police indicates a complaint relating to O’Hara has been laid, but can't say what action will be taken. Telecom Security has also been working on tracing calls to O’Hara’s office, home and cellphone.

Acting Xtra head Peter Saunders confirms that Telecom has also referred to police allegations of “inappropriate” email and telephone calls to Voyager. Two tapes on which the calls were “allegedly recorded” would also be given to police for “safekeeping”.

The threats came after Voyager cheekily used an old Internet protocol (see Finger) to obtain about 10,000 Xtra email addresses, which were then mailed a message entitled “A great offer from Voyager”. Before his current silence, O’Hara described the mailout as “a direct marketing exercise”, but many in the Internet community regarded it as a “spam”--an indiscriminate and unsolicited mailout. In addition to the threats, O’Hara has also been on the end of a number of spam attacks, apparently from the same source.

A statement from Saunders points to “a strong feeling of displeasure among the Internet community over Voyager’s unprecedented and indiscriminate emailing ... however, we do not condone any improper or illegal Internet or voice traffic, whether from our employees or our competitors.”

Voyager’s 80% parent, OzEmail, is thought to be concerned at the latest turn of events, but it represents an even bigger can of worms for Xtra boss Chris Tyler, who is freshly back from a business trip where he is thought to have been trying to sell the Xtra package to the Regional Bell Operating Companies (RBOCs) in the US.

Not only has the Xtra employee caused great embarrassment, but fundamental holes in Xtra’s system have continued to appear. It was the emergence of Xtra’s initial security hole which prompted another ill-advised attempt by the Xtra employee to go in to bat for his employer.

After word of Xtra’s password generation problem spread on Friday September 6, a new channel called “xtra sucks” was opened on the Internet Relay Chat server hosted in Auckland by Iconz. Among a number of users to look in on the channel was IDG system administrator Philip Martelli, an experienced user who has been given system operator privileges by Iconz.

Martelli says the Xtra employee later accused him online of starting the channel, which he had not. Over the following weeks, Martelli realised that the Xtra worker was using his (Martelli’s) usual “handle”, pcm, whilst on the server. On request of original email details from the server, Martelli discovered that the Xtra employee had falsified the information to make it appear that he was logged on from a domain owned by IDG New Zealand. The Xtra worker also opened a channel called “idg sucks”.

Whilst posing as Martelli, The Xtra employee posted various attacks on Iconz. Eventually, Martelli used his operator privileges to deny the person access to the server. They “talked” online and the Xtra worker departed with the words “You’ll see what happens!”.

The Xtra employee subsequently changed his “real name” to Jim Bolger and his address information to read “jb@govt.nz”. Although such stunts might appear trivial, they are against IRC rules and may breach section 246 of the Crimes Act. Ironically, despite assurances that there has been no campaign against Xtra, one Xtra manager last week requested an “explanation” of IDG’s activities.

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