The Australian Census website went down under the strain of usage and the government is blaming foreign cyber-attackers for the problems when it is to do with the inability to deal with the amount of traffic that came to the website on the census night. Of course, I did mine in advance and had zero problems, but the other people that tried to do their census on the night have had huge problems. This is why the server should have been load tested before the night, this would have revealed problems with the bandwidth and load capacity of the web server. There are tools available to load-test servers before they are needed for a major requirement such as a census night. That would have not required much effort at all, but this is the Australian government we are talking about here. Apparently, they are now saying this was not an on-line attack after all, but what a bungle it is. That is why websites that are intended for a heavy load should be distributed to handle the load. Blaming “overseas attackers” for your own IT failings is not the best way to handle this situation.
Building better IT infrastructure for Australia should be a goal for the 21st century, but this has fallen by the wayside. Our Internet infrastructure lags behind many other countries and we are selling everything off to foreign buyers. Independent Senator Nick Xenophon, who last week called for the Census to be delayed because of growing concerns about its roll-out, security and the readiness of the ABS, said the census was “a monumental failure of a government program of the first order’’. “In response to my calls for a delay the Government and the ABS were dismissive of my concerns. They said everything was OK,’’ he said. This is a huge embarrassment for the Australian government. I wonder what will happen if they want to move the Election voting on-line… It would be fun to watch that is for sure. Malcolm Turnbull sought to assure Australians their census data was “safe” and had not been “compromised” but admitted that some of the Australian Bureau of Statistics “defenses” had clearly “failed” last night. He said the ABS’ decision to close down the census on-line site was “taken out of an abundance of caution”. So the website was shut down due to overload, but it should have been able to handle the expected load, but it could not. This is a failure in planning, they should have known what load the server was expected to take. They should learn their lesson from this and do a better job next time.