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DDoS Attack Disrupts VoIP and Internet Services at Voipfone UK UPDATE3

Wednesday, September 1st, 2021 (5:37 pm) - Score 6,528
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Customers of both Voipfone’s UK business broadband and Voice-over-Internet-Protocol (VoIP) services are reporting to ISPreview.co.uk that the provider has suffered significant service disruption for the past day or two, which appears to be at least partly the result of a Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) assault against their systems.

The problems appear to have started yesterday after the operator’s Service Status page “identified a further DDoS attack” against their network, which at the time of writing remains unresolved. Today, the provider’s broadband services have also been “partially” disrupted (since just after 10am), with Voipfone noting “reports of issues accessing some websites,” although it’s unclear whether this relates to the wider DDoS issue.

DDoS attacks typically work by overloading a target server or end-user with masses of data requests from multiple internet-connected devices (often malware hijacked computers / botnets etc.), which can cause the intended target to crash or suffer significant performance problems until the bad traffic stops. Such attacks may also expose other weaknesses that hackers can exploit (or even blackmail), such as happened to TalkTalk in 2015 (here).

Sadly, DDoS attacks occur against UK ISPs all the time and are practically par-for-the-course in this business, but most can be mitigated and few are ever significant enough to disrupt connectivity for lots of end-users. In many cases, these incidents often aren’t an attack against the ISP itself, but rather somebody targeting a specific customer or upstream network provider.

As I write this, Voipfone has just announced that the broadband side of “this incident has been resolved” (here), although sadly the wider issues with DDoS and VoIP appear to be ongoing (here). Suffice to say that there are quite a few customers complaining about their phone services being down, particularly on Twitter. The provider’s last update on that specific issue was posted 6 hours ago.

UPDATE 8:54am

Shockingly, Voipfone has not been able to issue a service status update on the DDoS related phone/voip outage in 22 hours. Since yesterday’s article we’ve also had bags of emails and comments from both consumers and businesses, including some broadband ISPs, that are dependent upon the provider’s platform and have now been left without voice comms for a significant period of time.

On top of all this, we’ve noted that a second broadband and VoIP provider, VoIP Unlimited, is also being impacted by a similar DDoS attack (here). But unlike Voipfone, they were able to issue a service status update at 8am this morning: “Services are operational this morning however the attacks are still ongoing. We will update here as soon as there are any changes. Please do not hesitate to contact us on 01202612000 or via a ticket on our support portal: portal.voip-unlimited.net should you have any issues. Thank you for your patience.

The situation is helping to highlight one of the new challenges with switching from the old analogue copper phone network and on to an all-IP platform. Providers of VoIP solutions will need to invest more to ensure resilience, particularly as this sort of event can also disrupt access to the emergency services and Ofcom won’t be happy about that.

UPDATE 10:40am

A spokesperson for Ofcom told ISPreview.co.uk: “We’re aware that Voipfone is experiencing problems with its network, and we’re contacting them to establish the scale and cause of the problem as soon as possible.”

UPDATE 4:19pm

The MD of Voip Unlimited has revealed to The Register that the DDoS appears to be part of a “planned and organised DDoS attack” against VoIP companies in the UK by a Russian-based “criminal hacking organisation called REvil“, which they say has come attached to a “colossal ransom demand.”

Voip Unlimited’s latest service status update, which was posted at 4pm, said: “The DDoS attack is continuing, however, Voip unlimited engineers have observed a further large-scale wave of attacks this afternoon. We are working to mitigate and we will continue to monitor as usual.”

Meanwhile, over at Voipfone, a new update was posted at 2:37pm, but it doesn’t really say anything new: “Our team continue to work tirelessly to fix the issue that’s disrupting our services, we really do apologise for the inconvenience this may be causing you. The messages of support and understanding that we’ve received from our customers, really is overwhelming and very much appreciated. We will continue to post updates as things develop.”

However, some Voipfone customers have recently noted a return of their service, at least for the past couple of hours.

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By Mark Jackson
Mark is a professional technology writer, IT consultant and computer engineer from Dorset (England), he also founded ISPreview in 1999 and enjoys analysing the latest telecoms and broadband developments. Find me on Twitter, , Facebook and Linkedin.
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44 Responses
  1. The Facts says:

    999 calls affected?

    1. occasionally factual says:

      I cannot register to Voipfone VOIP servers currently so yes 999 calls are affected as are all calls.
      Luckily I use an ATA that allows for multiple VOIP services with auto failover. And I have always had 3 VOIP services registered so I do have fall over for all outgoing calls. I don’t use Voipfone for incoming calls thankfully.

    2. Michael Pavlou says:

      Further to the multitude customers contacting our support desk today (in error) regarding service outage and technical issues with their phone system provided by voipfone / I-Net communications UK LTD (company reg 08063906 )

      We are I-Net Communications Group PLC (company Reg 0403652) and have no relation or association with your current provider.

      Should you wish to move your service to an extremely stable (36+ months of 100% uptime) and award winning solution we will be very glad assist in this with urgncy and with a competitive quote.

      Kind Regards
      Sales@inetplc.com
      Website http://www.inetplc.com

    3. Olly says:

      @Michael Pavlou are you nuts? Two companies, considerably larger than yours, are brought to their knees by massive DDoS attacks. You’re in the comments fishing for business at their despair, when your own company has no DDoS mitigation. This must be a troll.

      @Mark Jackson please take my and this clown’s comments down ASAP.

    4. ANDRES ABANTO says:

      September 21 the problem remains unsolved.

  2. Jon Giles says:

    We have been affected by this today and the status website still shows the Voice services as being affected (1/9/21 @ 1850hrs).
    999 calls would be affected but we have alternative provisions for that as an organisation.
    While Comms today have been limited they did write to customers yesterday explaining what happened over the bank holiday and warning that it might happen again with advice on making sure failover settings were configured to allow inbound calls to divert which was working.

  3. David Bradley says:

    Just about getting by through failover to PSTN numbers but our capacity to handle calls drops from 20 or so lines to just 2. And it’s not easy to switch over to night service.

    Their status page just isn’t updated frequently enough for my liking. And what makes me think it is one man and his dog fire fighting? After a day or more of a yo-yo service, normality seems a long way off.

    1. Nat Morris says:

      From the look of the status updates and the suggestion that users need to reduce their MTU. Suspecting they did not have data center cross connects ready to a DDoS scrubbing such as Akamai or Voxility, but instead had to turn up GRE tunnels in a hurry.

      Appears they (AS39884) moved behind Faelix today who have Voxility as an upstream.

  4. R. Mark Clayton says:

    Down again this evening, although fail-over to PSTN appears to be working correctly, as are out of hours voicemail.

    Is Voipfone the only provider under attack?

    1. Sean says:

      Sadly they’re not, VoIP Unlimited is suffering from a DDoS attack at the moment too.

      https://status.voip-unlimited.net/

  5. Martin Pitt - Aquiss says:

    It certainly makes you question their network claims, especially as they still make reference on their website to directly be peering with Telewest, NTL, Pipex and Tiscali to name but a few.

  6. ssmmdd says:

    Question is, who’s so annoyed at VOIP companies that have the capacity to hit them with a DDoS? And why?

    1. william lewis says:

      A certain major fixed line provider would see it as an advantage to remove competitors in the digital phone market as they are entering it.

    2. Ivor says:

      depending on which “major fixed line provider” you are trying to pin conspiracy nonsense onto, they’ve probably been in the VoIP game longer than most of the pure VoIP companies.

      Not to mention of course that what they’re actually offering is a landline service at landline prices & subject to landline regulations, which just happens to be delivered over IP rather than ISDN or analogue POTS. It’s not competition for these ultra cheap VoIP services with no reliability guarantees

  7. Chris James says:

    All my Voipfone is down and now impacting my business. The updates from Voipfone are not acceptable and as previously mentioned gives the impression it’s just one person trying to run this business. Voipfone will take a while to repair their reputation all be it the attacks are not their doing. More updates needed!

    1. Phil says:

      Pay peanuts….

  8. Les Dee says:

    I concur. The last update is 24 hours only.

    I tried to log into my account and login is blocked – I I can’t even divert the line elsewhere.

  9. James says:

    I echo what others have said here…

    While I appreciate this can happen to anyone. There really isn’t enough information coming from VoipFone on what they are doing to resolve the issue and when they expect it to be resolved. I have a few clients using the service and the failover wasn’t set and the dashboard has been offline for 24 hours now, so we can’t help those clients receive calls. This has been going on for a week now and is a huge disappointment that they didn’t work on this sooner.

    I also question their resilience claims on their website.

  10. Jon Giles says:

    We are not suffering to much from this outage yet but it is frustrating. As a small charity user we benefit from a very low cost service but there are minimum expectations here and one of those is honest timely info about the issue and expected time to fix.
    Does anyone have concrete info about why voipfone are a target? Or is it likely to be random?

  11. Dassa says:

    As providers of Critical National Infrastructure, one would expect VOIP providers to take all measures necessary to ensure continuity of service. That would include appropriate resistance to cyber attack, at least where such resistance could be reasonably be provided.

    In other words, I can understand customers not being able to reach a VOIP provider due to issues in the customers’ networks, or due to issues with transit providers, but failures within the VOIP providers’ networks themselves should be extremely rare and as a result of completely unforeseeable events – DOS attacks do not fall into that category.

    Does OfCom have a view on this – ultimately they are supposed to be regulating the industry such that issues like this do not arise?

  12. Simon Speak says:

    I rely on the voipfone, I am self employed, and work from home, so I just have the one service with two incoming lines. The service is diverted to my mobile on failover and when I am out of the office.

    My mobile signal is insufficient at home, so the divert to mobile is useless in this instance. Could really do with knowing when it is likely to be back up and running.

    1. Ivor says:

      If you have a modern smartphone (iPhone 6 or better, Android support is more patchy) then you might be able to enable “wifi calling” which uses your internet connection to talk to your mobile network. Works seamlessly with 4G calling too. Does depend on which network you’re on and type of plan, while the big four do, not all MVNOS (e.g. Virgin, ASDA, iD, Tesco Mobile etc) support it.

      If you don’t, it might be worth considering. If you rely on the phone for business then it’s a good idea to have at least two entirely separate services in case one goes down.

  13. Valerie says:

    This problem as been ongoing for our company since last Friday. I just tried to call again to get an update and only got a recorded message. I have diverted calls to my mobile but not practical long term given I can not transfer calls to my colleagues. It is ironic that a company specialising in communication are unable to update their customers as to what they are doing to resolve this issue.

    1. David Bradley says:

      I feel your pain and frustration as whatever failover plan you adopt it can in no way match the service when things are normal, and of course call costs rise dramatically by having to pay the transfer leg of the incoming call and perhaps a higher rate for outgoing calls.

      Aside from the fight to restore the service, where is the gain to those that inflict this misery on so many; is ransomware the motive?

  14. Annoyed says:

    Colin Duffy is voipfone CEO.
    Quick search
    Begin quote..

    I spent 20 or so years in BT finishing as General Manager for all of BT’s Consumer Internet & Multimedia Products and Services and in 1999 I did a management buy out of one of its unwanted media products and floated it on AIMS.

    Prior to that I ran BT’s Financial and Telephony Services Division for all public switched telephony services for many years in the ‘90s (turnover £9,000m). This included regulatory modelling, pricing, unbundling and competition negotiations with OfTel (now Ofcom) and working group liaison and negotiation with ICSTIS (regulatory body for premium services). I was also the UK’s representative on the European Telephony Tariff Group for 5 years.

    These days, I’m the CEO of iNet Telecom Ltd (Voipfone).
    End quote.

  15. David says:

    Sadly can’t even access their website to add a redirect to my mobile at the moment. Less than ideal!

    1. Sean says:

      Email support so it can be configured on your behalf.

  16. miles says:

    For reference their website is loading fine for me.

    Sadly my phone is not working, which is very problematic as I have virtually no mobile signal where I am.

  17. In the Dark says:

    We are also without phones and whilst some DDIs can divert to mobiles (not ideal generally) our main reception line is in a group that means those calls can only fail over to voicemail (more work for me as boss to distribute those messages to staff).

    Anyway, if of interest I sent support an email first thing this morning and they did reply (my message very bottom, their reply comes first). Not really an answer to anything…

    QUOTE

    Dear **

    We will be publishing a report on the status page when we are further down the line. We are still under attack at the moment yes.

    If you need any further help please get back to me.

    Kind Regards

    ** (Support Technician)

    Voipfone Customer Services

    ===================== Previous Message ====================

    Subject: DDoS Attack – no phone service

    Good morning

    Our phones have now been down for more than 24 hours in total across working hours and not far off what will be a complete 24 hour period since yesterday.

    That is not sustainable for our business.

    Your voipfonestatus site has not been updated since 11:22 BST yesterday, 1 September. Simply saying that you are working on a fix for the issue.

    The impression being given is that your company and its services are under a malicious, targeted and sustained attack which you are unable to fight or rectify. Is that correct?

    Is there any prospect of services being restored? And being robust against future debilitating attack?

    We look forward to some information.

    Regards,

    END QUOTE

  18. Terence Nicholson says:

    Very poor communication from Voipfone, it’s at times like these when a companies service levels are tested and voipfone is failing. I’m going elsewhere.

    1. P.G says:

      I’m now kicking my self I din’t move from Voipfone the last few months as I been thinking to make the jump.
      Very poor communication from them. I was lucky to manage to get to my account and redirect the incoming calls to my mobile and to another member of staff. No ideal but better than nothing I guess.

      Very frustrating!!!

  19. P.G says:

    Phones back on! Let’s hope it lasts!!

    1. In the Dark says:

      Ours are on again, then off again, then on again, then off again.

      Currently, as I type, they are on again but who knows for how long.

      What we all need to be informed of and be able to understand as businesses is when the issue has been fully resolved and what assurances Voipfone can give that these interruptions will not happen again. Otherwise we can have no faith in their offering going forward.

  20. Irksome says:

    Voip Unlimited are still being hit very hard according to their status page, but at least most of their services seems to be working although we lost 2 leased lines provided by them for several hours on Tuesday.

    What ammused me is the following page on their website …

    https://www.voip-unlimited.net/media-centre/announcements/ddos-infographic/

  21. martine lofty says:

    We’ve had about three incoming calls since last Thursday evening when we first noticed the problem. Weve had one email to say they are being attacked but nothing since. phoning is a voice recording and email is pretty much a generic update email. This is disastrous for business we will have lost so many customers who are unable to call in to us. I tried the diverts but mine are not working so just not getting any calls in or able to call out on phones and very frustrated that we are not getting updates on when this will change. Will definately think of changing when this is all over. Whilst i appreciate it isnt their fault i need an idea of when this will stop. very disappointed.

  22. Martin says:

    I cannot help but think that some people are playing into the attacker’s hands here with their “I am unhappy and off stuff”.

    Even larger ISPs with very good security systems and knowledgable staff can struggle against a determined DDoS attack from a (unofficial) state sponsored attacking organization.

    Indeed, these attack organizations may be just training their operatives and systems prior to a much bigger attack on a larger Telco.

    Until the Western World wakes up and reengineers the internet so that the three most likely suspects are put in a box, these things will continue.

  23. Grant Attwood says:

    Ours have now been working again for the past hour. But the status hasn’t updated on the Voipfone Status page. So I’m not confident we’re out of the woods yet. Is anyone still down, or are most people’s working?

  24. Steve says:

    After 2025 there will be no PSTN to fall back on and no doubt BT will scrap all the digital exchange equipment and local copper cables. Therefore after 2025 and during a VOIP outage we could be in a dire situation with possibly no 999 emergency access.

    1. P.G says:

      Still have your mobile for 999 access though?

    2. Steve says:

      So long as the mobile provider doesn’t use Voip for the last leg of the call to the emergency operator centre and how will the emergency operator route the call to the relevant emergency service. I just hope that all of this has been thought out by the network planners.

  25. Jacquie says:

    I thought everyhing was ok this morning but at 11.59am my phones went dead again. Anyone else having problems ?

    1. p.g says:

      Yep same here!

  26. Paul says:

    Let’s just hope that when this ends Voipfone will make their netowrks more resilient. After teh recent price hikes on (number / line) rental they should be investing that into a better and more reslilient model. Also, They need to have some customer commitment that should this happen again or happen going forward then the charges to customers for PSTN failover call charges (i.e. the customer paying to diver to their mobile or POTS landline) will be reimbursed.

    If I failover to my mobile then every incoming call from a customer will be charged to me at nearly 10p/min as it stands right now and that is totally unfair when it is their failure. I asked them about this 3x and they were silent on the matter. NOT GOOD ENOUGHT VOIPFONE!

  27. Ian Gyman says:

    I’m in the USA. My VOIP provider, https://www.voip.ms , is undergoing a DDOS attack that started at 1600h GMT on September 16, probably from the same perpetrator as the attacks against Voipfone and VOIP Unlimited. More info is in the long thread linked to below.

    Does any of you know how long the attacks against Voipfone and VOIP Unlimited lasted, and how long it took them to get back to normal service?

    And did Voipfone or VOIP Unlimited pay the ransom?

    https://www.dslreports.com/forum/r33210774-Voip-ms-VOIP-MS-may-have-an-outage-right-now

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