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Tuesday 17 January 2017

Opinion

Makes No Census

Paul Zanetti Wednesday 10 August 2016




I seriously doubt last night's census website crash was a DDOS attack.

A DDOS (Distributed Denial Of Service) attack is when a hacker maliciously arranges for multiple auto-site visits (often in the millions) to overwhelm it so the site crashes.

This morning the Australian Bureau of Statistics reckons there were four foreign hacker attacks but no data was compromised. Hmmm...

The more logical explanation is that millions of visitors did hit the website, as the ABS asked us all to do.

Problem was, the site was unprepared for the mass volume of visitors at the peak time we were asked to fill in the census form. As some feared or predicted, the site could not cope, despite assurances from the ABS just 24 hours earlier.

We were assured the online form could handle 1 million submissions per hour.  But there are 10 million households with a census to fill out.

If we deduct the households filling out a paper form, and those who filled out the online form earlier and those who intended to fill out the online form later, that would still leave millions hitting the site at the same time period.

The ABS is running for cover blaming 'foreigners' while the Minister is saying the opposite - this was not an attack or a hack.

Even if we give the ABS the benefit of the doubt that the site was brought down by a DDOS attack, is that really good enough?

In pre-census interviews ABS representatives confidently explained this census was 5 years in the planning - that load testing had passed the test. Nothing to worry about.

Well, nothing that is, except the skills of a computer savvy 12 year old.

What the ABS is suggesting this morning is the site was brought down by a method understood and actionable by the common garden variety computer geek.

In other words, the most expected worst case, and common scenario, was not expected. It's straight out of 'Yes Minister', especially the bit about possible attacks from foreign enemies.

Maybe it was the Chinese retaliating for Mack Horton's drug cheating comments. Or ISIS. Or Donald Trump blowing online raspberries at the Trans Pacific Partnership. Or a Putin shirtfront.
 
Luckily, though, the ABS has assured us that any data that did get submitted by the million plus who filled out here form online in the pre-peak period is safe.

Nothing to worry about.

Trust us.