It's a long way from Manitoba to Bulgaria — and phone calls from one to the other can get really expensive.

That's what one hapless Canadian small-business owner discovered after a hacker broke into his company's voice-mail system and placed hundreds of calls to the Balkan nation, landing him with a $43,000 phone bill.

"If I have to pay that whole bill out of my own pocket, I'm looking at having to lay off one of my employees," Alan Davison, owner of HUB Computer Solutions in Winnipeg, told the Winnipeg Free Press. "It's quite obvious something was right out of whack. There were hundreds of phone calls."

HUB offers its business clients "best-of-breed security products and solutions," among many other networking and hardware-related services, yet all that stood between a hacker and the company's voice-mail system was a four-digit password.

"Some of these people are very, very knowledgeable in the area and over time they are pretty good at running different passwords," a local security expert tells the Free Press.

Once in, the hacker needed to only use the outbound-transfer feature to place calls overseas.

Davison wants a break on the bill from Manitoba Telecom Services, but the phone company says that since HUB owned all its internal phone-networking gear, the small business may be liable for the whole thing.

"I'm not going to dispute this person didn't make these calls, but speaking generally, we're just not in a position to monitor everyone's minute-to-minute billing," said MTS spokesman Greg Burch.

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