Govt cyber advisor sees ongoing impact from Census fiasco

‘Lasting impact’ from Census problems says Alastair MacGibbon

The Prime Minister’s Special Advisor on Cyber Security, Alastair MacGibbon, says that the technical problems with the 2016 Census will have an ongoing impact on trust in government digital services.

Although the denial of service attacks that eventually led to the Australian Bureau of Statistics pulling the Census website temporarily offline were “comparatively small” they will a “lasting impact”, according to MacGibbon.

The ABS pulled the Census website offline after a series of denial of service attacks followed by misidentification of a further denial of service attempt. Both the ABS and contractor IBM have been criticised over their handling of the Census.

MacGibbon has been leading a government-commissioned review of the incident. There is also a Senate inquiry into the 2016 Census.

“I’ve spent the last happy month looking at the failure of government digital service delivery in the Census,” MacGibbon told the SINET61 conference yesterday.

“And while in and of itself the denial of service attack or attacks were small, the actual turning off of that Census service to the Australian public, apart from being an annoyance … the impact in terms of trust and confidence, the impact in terms of the ability of government to deliver services, will last for a significant period.”

Government and the cyber security sector need to prepare not just for “hard-edged cyber security threats” but flow-through impact on the “trust and confidence in the systems that we build,” MacGibbon said.

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