news Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has put some the blame for the failure of the Census website on the shoulders of IBM, saying the measures the firm put in place for the functioning of the site were “inadequate”.
However, the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) didn’t get off scot-free, with the PM saying the bureau’s “failure” had “inconvenienced millions of Australians”.
The Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) has said that the site was shut down as a “precaution” following a combination of heavy site traffic, a hardware failure, and a distributed denial of service (DDoS) attack.
Answering questions from a journalist, though, the Prime Minister seemed to cast some doubt on the ABS claim that heavy site traffic was a significant factor in the shutdown.
The site, designed to enable Australians to easily fill out and return their Census forms online, was provisioned to deal with the submission of up to 260 forms per second. However the highest rate it reached was 150, according to Turnbull, so a “very high” submission rate had been planned for.
Addressing the denial of service attacks – of which the site received four on Census night – Turnbull said they were “absolutely predictable”.
Part of the job of the service provider, in this case IBM, he went on, was to ensure that there were measures to repel denial of service attacks.
“The fact is that the measures put in place were inadequate. That is the fact,” the PM said.
Turnbull also said the DDoS incident had been compounded by “at least one hardware failure” according to the the Australian Signals Directorate, which is investigating the issues and overseeing the “rectification”.
“Anomalous traffic on the night” had also thought to have been an issue, but turned out to be “quite innocent”. However, it “caused the ABS to take the site down”.
In summary, Turnbull suggested the site was “not crashed” by the DDoS attack but by “a confluence of events which caused the ABS to make that decision”.
Conceding that there was “a failure on the part of the – there were failures on the part of ABS and its systems provider”, the PM said “All of that is subject to review.”
“Which heads roll where and when will be determined once the review is complete. Right now, my objective, as Prime Minister, is to ensure that the site is back up, it should be restored today … But there has clearly been a failure,” Turnbull said.
Expressing the need to be “absolutely straight and frank with the Australian people”, he continued: “This has been a failure of the ABS. We have inconvenienced or the ABS has inconvenienced millions of Australians. It shouldn’t have happened. I am not happy about it. None of us are.”
Answering a query over the transparency of any future review, the PM promised it “will certainly be transparent”.
“If there are national security issues, then they will be dealt with in the normal way. Obviously national security, there are some things that can’t be disclosed,” he said.
While the identity of the DDoS attackers is not known, Turnbull said the current information suggests “they appeared to be coming from the United States”, although it is “relatively straight forward to be able to route traffic using virtual private networks and other techniques through the US. That will be investigated. That is being investigated.”
The PM added that, according to David Kalisch, Australian Statistician and ABS chief, 2.3 million forms have so far been completed online.
Additionally, “[th]ere are 3.7 million forms that are either with households or on their way to households. We are talking about – so the statistician advises me – about 10 million households, so you can do the math yourself,” Turnbull said.
“Once the site is restored, and as I said my advice is it should be restored today, we will be encouraging Australians to complete it,” he concluded.
Image credit: Parliamentary Broadcasting