Privacy Commissioner to scrutinise Census ‘cyber attack’

OAIC to seek assurances over safety of individuals’ data

Australian Privacy Commissioner Timothy Pilgrim has launched an investigation into what the Australian Bureau of Statistics has described as a series of denial of service attacks that targeted the Census 2016 site.

The ABS said this morning that the Census site was last night targeted by four denial of service attacks “of varying nature and severity”.

The bureau said that as a precaution it took the site offline.

“I am aware of the denial of service attacks on the Census 2016 website last night and my staff have been in contact with ABS this morning,” a statement issued by Pilgrim said.

“Based on these reports I am commencing an investigation of the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) in regards to these cyber attacks, under the Australian Privacy Act 1988. My first priority is to ensure that no personal information has been compromised as a result of these attacks.”

The ABS has said that data submitted for the Census remains secure.

The Office of the Australian Information Commissioner has previously been briefed over privacy protections put in place for the Census, Pilgrim said.

“My office will continue to work with the ABS to ensure they are taking appropriate steps to protect the personal information collected through the Census,” he said.

Digital Rights Watch has called for an “independent inquiry” into the handling of the Census.

“The Turnbull government’s handling of last night’s online Census demonstrates both a total disrespect for personal privacy rights and lack of digital literacy,” said Amy Gray, a DRW board member, said in a statement.

“We need an independent investigation of the whole process, including a forensic report of the cause of the website crash, the handling of privacy concerns and the outsourcing of key services to private companies.”

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