Australian Bureau of Statistics says Census Website Attacked by Overseas Hackers

Australia_Census_logoAustralia’s 2016 census has created a lot of controversy concerning privacy issues. (See my recent article at https://goo.gl/JnMGUW for details. In turn, that article refers to a longer article in the ABC.NET.AU News site at http://goo.gl/IWLzCw.) Now the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) says it believes a series of hacking attacks which led to the census website being shut down were part of a deliberate attempt to sabotage the national survey.

Thousands of Australians were prevented from taking part in the census on Tuesday night as the ABS website crashed.

Details may be found at http://goo.gl/bVHyNd.

I do question the claim of “overseas hackers.” All hackers, including those in Australia, have the capability of launching DDOS attacks that will command virus-infected computers around the world to attack any server. In the article at http://goo.gl/bVHyNd, I do not see any evidence that the hackers were outside of Australia.

2 Comments

As an Australian genealogist, you can expect correctly that I am a strong supporter of censuses. This was a first attempt at submitting returns digitally. Traditional paper form submission, with reply-paid postage return, was also offered to everyone, delivered to the premises. This is what I used. Apart from any other factor, when the census is released in 100 years or so, a researcher can find my handwritten signature.
As usual, the vast silent majority was completely happy. And again as usual, the rent-a-mouth dissenters received weeks and days of free stirring publicity. I agree with Dick’s opinion that the hackers were local. If not for the publicity given the dissenters, no-one would have bothered hacking.
Little could be discovered that is not available from phone books, electoral rolls, Medicare registration, drivers’ licence databanks, etc. They have probably already been hacked somewhere in China. So this hacking was doubtless more for the publicity than the information.
I did however find one question that I objected to. It asked the name of my employer, and I felt that this was intrusive and I have submitted this to my member of parliament.
Bill

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Actually, this was not the first attempt at digital returns. I have submitted the last two censuses (2006 and 2011) online. However, it is the first time they wanted digital first with paper backup for those people without digital capability. The other two times digital was an option to the paper copy. We have conflicting messages to what actually happened, but I understand it was a Denial of Service (DoS) attack, not an attempt to hack peoples data. The Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) should have been ready for that and tried blaming anyone except themselves. Also, the government greatly reduced the ABS funding and left them without an appointed permanent head for over 12 months – not a good way to get the census planning done.

I look forward to the inevitable inquiry to get more information and also to see whose “heads will roll” as our PM as promised!

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