Last week’scensus debacle is about as clear an indication as you can get that the Australian government is grossly under prepared for the information boom that continues to explode around our nation.
Nanjing Night Net

Tech fail: The 2016 Census debacle has the internet awash with memes poking fun at the failed system, including this gem from British comedy The IT Crowd.

Year after year, Australian communications infrastructure and policy slip further behind the world standard, with businesses and end users left to battle for bandwidth on a sputtering network.

By simple comparison,users in Singapore enjoy servicesup to 100 times faster than Australia, while we wallow in 60thplace for global internet speeds with a substandard NBN network struggling to keep up.

It was little surprise then, that in the lead up to the August 9 census night, thousands of Australians expressed concerns over the Australian Bureau of Statistics’ ability to protect the data they were planning to collect.

Senior ministers, including Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, were quick to assure the public that the new online collection system was safe and secure from external threats. Even quicker to follow werethreats of penalties which, until the system failed spectacularly just a few hours into the evening, were thrown about with such abandon that many people felt compelled to complete the survey regardless of their privacy fears.

As a reasonably tech-savvy individual with a social circle comprising many leading IT and communications specialists, my alert level was high prior to August 9. Many of my friends and colleagues stated they would refuse to complete the survey on principle alone, given the requirement to share personal details not previously mandatory in the collection.

The census is without question an incredibly important piece of Australian history, data that is used for decades of planning to make decisions on the future of our country.Many citizens who felt the need to refuse participation this year were blasted by others for being paranoid, and denigrating the intention behind the collection.

A few hours into the evening of August 9, however, and those fears started to become a reality as the woefully under-equipped IBM-led census system collapsed under the weight of half the country trying to access the website at once.

Initial reports from the ABS suggested the website was under attack from overseas ‘hackers’ with a plan to bring the website down via a distributed denial of service (or DDoS)onslaught.

In simple terms, a DDoS attack brings a website down by sending thousands upon thousands of false users to that site until it reaches a point of overload. According to website digitalattackmap南京夜网, as little as $150 can purchase a week-long DDoS attack on the dark web, the internet’s own black market.

On the surface, such an attack was believable. High profile media attention had made the census the number one topic around the country last week, and hackers would certainly relish taking down such an important site.

But within minutes of the blame being laid on ‘overseas threats’, a live data visualisation from digitalattackmap南京夜网 showed no unusual activity in internet traffic, from statistics provided by over 270 internet service providers. Such an attack would almost certainly show spikes in traffic, but none occurred.

In the week since the site collapse, the battle continues to even re-instate the website with computer giantIBM now facing serious questions over it’s role in the debacle.Of Australia’s estimated 9.2 million households less than half have completed their 2016 census, with many more renewing their vow to boycott the shakysystem.

The ABS and the government now face the unenviable task of regaining the public’s trust after not just one, but a number of continuing tech fails and half-truths.Until they acceptthat Australians are becoming increasinglytech-smart, and thateven the average user can poke holes in their ever-weakening excuses, the census process will suffer. –Nicky Lefebvre

This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.