ABS blames census chaos on server attack by hackers

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The Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) has blamed hackers for the shut down of the census website on Tuesday night, saying it closed the site as a precaution.

Australia’s top statistician, David Kalisch, says hackers attacked the Census website four times on Tuesday night as millions of households attempted to log on to complete the national survey.

So the ABS closed down the website.

“It was an attack, and we believe from overseas,” Kalisch told the ABC .

“The Australian Signals Directorate are investigating, but they did note that it was very difficult to source the attack.

“The scale of the attack, it was quite clear it was malicious.

The ABS also acknowledged the attack this morning.

The site was shut down around 7.30pm “to ensure the integrity of the data” following the fourth attack.

The ABS says the first three attacks “caused minor disruption but more than 2 million Census forms were successfully submitted and safely stored”.

But the revelations are embarrassing for the ABS, which continued to tell people via Twitter for at least 15 minutes after the site was shut down that “the online form and website are operating smoothly as expected. Please try again”, despite being bombarded with hundreds of complaints from people unable to access the site.

Even more embarrassingly, the ABS was sending out this Tweet as late as 10pm:

It wasn’t until 8.38pm that the ABS acknowledged the problem on Twitter.

The census website remains offline this morning with the ABS saying it will give an update on the situation at 9am.

Labor’s Andrew Leigh told the ABC the government needs to consider whether to rehold Census night and that cyber attacks are the cost of doing business on the internet.

“Connect a machine up to the internet and normally within 15 minutes someone is knocking on your door, trying to get in. Any online system needs to be built to be resilient to this.”

The ABS spent $55,000 load testing the system, along with more than $300,000 on load testing licences in the lead up to the census, which more than 10 million households are expected to fill out online.

Around $10 million was spent with IBM, with census officials estimating that the move to online would save taxpayers around $100 million.

The statistics authority has reiterated that no one will be fined for not completing the census on Tuesday night.

Australians have until September 23 to lodge the form.

NOW READ: DISASTER: The fallout from Australia’s spectacular census failure will be felt for years

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