To say the 2016 Census was poorly handled is a massive understatement. In addition to legitimate privacy concerns over the contoversial decision to retain names and addresses for the first time since 1905, the eCensus was also pulled offline by the ABS due to alleged DDoS attacks. This pissed off a lot of Australians who were halfway through the online survey. The good news is that it’s finally back online.
The 2016 Census has been down all day. The last update from the ABS was last night, stating it will continue to work with Australian Signals Directorate “and our providers” to get the online Census form back up “as soon as possible”.
“We’d like to again apologise that the online form is still not available, and reassure the Australian public that their privacy is our highest priority,” the statement reads.
Whelp, it’s finally back. If you still need to complete yours, head to the official site now. Alternatively, it might be prudent to wait another 24 hours to ensure everything is above board — remember, you have until next month to complete the survey.
If you’re wondering what went wrong, here’s the official statement from the Australian Privacy Commissioner and Acting Australian Information Commissioner, Timothy Pilgrim PSM:
Yesterday I initiated an investigation into an incident involving the Census 2016 website. My priority in doing so was to ensure that no personal information had been compromised.
My staff and I have been in regular contact with the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS), and I have received a briefing directly from the Australian Signals Directorate (ASD) — the Commonwealth’s pre-eminent cyber-security analysts.
ASD advised me that the incident was a denial of service (DoS) attack and did not result in any unauthorised access to, or extraction of, any personal information and, on the information provided to me by ASD, I am satisfied that personal information was not inappropriately accessed, lost or mishandled.
The ABS’s decision to shut down the website — to avoid any prospect that the DoS attack could include or otherwise facilitate a data breach — was, in the circumstances, a pro-privacy precaution.
This incident will now be the subject of a broader review led by the Prime Minister’s Cyber-Security Adviser, Alastair MacGibbon. I have discussed with Mr MacGibbon how our Offices will work together as part that review.
My Office will also continue to work with the ABS to ensure they are continuing to take appropriate steps to protect the personal information collected through the Census.