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Gaffe-prone ISP PlusNet has had its email database stolen and its users' accounts bombarded by spammers.

The attack first surfaced yesterday, when PlusNet punters reported that previously spam-free email addresses were being filled with unsolicited discount pharmacy marketing. Some forum posters report that a few of their webmail contacts have received more spam too.

In a statement, BT-owned PlusNet said: "It has come to our attention that a number of customer email addresses have been obtained illegally by a third party. We are in the process of contacting all affected customers in order to inform them of the incident and of any steps they need to take to ensure that their internet connections and computers are safe.

"We regret that this has happened but are confident that we have resolved this issue and will monitor the situation closely to ensure that the effect is minimised and the issue does not reoccur."

The news is a huge blow for PlusNet, which recently completed migration to a brand new £250,000 NetApp email platform. The BT-funded investment was a central plank of the Sheffield-based ISP's plan to recover its reputation following the battering it took in these pages before it was bought out.

PlusNet directors have admitted that under-investment as an independent firm last year led to a seemingly unending series of blunders where data was deleted and angry users cut-off, provoking an exodus from its packages.

The last time accounts suffered from a spam attack, this April, mid-way through migration, the firm said its new hardware would remedy its email problems.

PlusNet has not revealed whether it has been hacked or if the data was obtained illegally some other way. It said it was still investigating the spam attack and would provide more info this afternoon. ®

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