Cloud Hangs Over IBM After Australian Census Catastrophe

The Australian Census for 2016 is a shambles.
A nation of 25 million people, around 10 million households, was urged, indeed threatened, to complete the census on time and online. Failure to comply would result in penalties of $180 each day, we were told. August 9 was the big day, or rather night. Census night. A time to pause and make a difference, as the marketing copy went.

Instead of a pause, we got a spectacular collapse. The online site supplied by IBM to carry out this once-every-five-years task suffered a complete meltdown, apparently partially caused by a Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attack of some sort, thought details remain sketchy.

On Thursday morning Australia time, the Prime Minister, Mr Malcolm Turnbull, told local radio station 2GB:

“Measures that ought to have been in place to prevent these denial-of-service attacks interfering with access to the website were not put in place,” he said. “That was a failure that was compounded by some failures in hardware – technical hardware failures – and inadequate redundancy.”

The site remains offline, more than 36 hours since it was taken down to “ensure the integrity of the data already submitted was protected.”

ABS has similarly failed to respond to my attempts to get more information about the nature of the failure and the design of the system.

The explanation for what happened on the night was a long time coming. The Australian Bureau of Statistics (Twitter hashtag #CensusFail trended globally as Australians vented their frustration with characteristic sarcastic humour.