Authorities took Australia’s census website offline following four digital attacks, a decision which prevented many Australians from filling out the survey.
David Kalisch of the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) explained the website came under attack four times on Tuesday and that authorities took the website down as a precaution after the fourth attack.
As quoted by ABC News:
“The online census form was subject to four denial of service attacks yesterday. The first three caused minor disruption, but more than 2 million forms were successfully submitted and safely stored. The scale of the attack, it was quite clear it was malicious. Steps have been taken during the night to remedy these issues and I can certainly reassure Australians that the data they provided is safe.”
Not everyone is in agreement with that explanation, however.
For instance, while Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull confirmed authorities took down the website following “denial of service attack or a denial of service attempt,” Assistant Treasurer Michael McCormack, who is responsible for overseeing the census, said the website experienced neither a hack nor an attack but simply “an attempt to frustrate the collection of data,” reports the BBC.
That’s not the end of it. According to The Guardian, some information security analysts stated there’s no evidence to suggest the Australian census website experienced a deliberate distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attack but instead failed due to inadequate web infrastructure.
Amid the lack of a unified explanation, Assistant Treasurer Andrew Leigh is displeased. As quoted by ZDNet:
“This has been the worst-run Census in Australian history. One of the worst IT debacles Australia has ever seen. The government should have been preparing for this. It’s not like the Census comes out of the blue and catches you unawares. But they’re complaining that because the election took place they couldn’t properly plan for the Census. That’s frankly not good enough.”
The census provides the Australian government with information on the living conditions of Australia’s 24 million citizens, including their marriage status and ethnic background.
Australian Privacy Commissioner Timothy Pilgrim said he would launch an investigation into what caused the census website’s “attacks.”
In the meantime, Australians who failed to complete the census on Tuesday will not face any fines for completing the survey after 9 August.
News of this incident follows more than a year after Optus, the second largest telecommunications company in Australia, agreed to an independent audit of its information security systems following three separate privacy breaches.