Turnbull pins Census outage on IBM, again

The PM has once again taken IBM to task over its role in the 2016 Census website outage

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull

Prime Minister, Malcolm Turnbull, has once again taken IBM to task over its role in the failure of the government’s Census website to withstand a series of distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks in August.

“It’s quite clear that this was a failure by IBM to deliver on their contractual commitments,” Turnbull told Melbourne’s 3AW Radio.

“That is clear; they had a contractual obligation to proof the ABS website, which they were managing, from this type of denial-of-service attack, and what occurred was not a massive attack or an unprecedented attack. It was highly expected,” he said.

Turnbull’s renewed attack on IBM over the 2016 Census debacle, which saw the site shut down for 40 hours following four DDoS attacks on Census night in early August, follows earlier comments that “heads will roll” at IBM over the incident.

However, in a public hearing into the 2016 Census on 25 October, IBM managing director for Australia and New Zealand, Kerry Purcell, revealed that the tech company had not undertaken any disciplinary actions against staff over the incident.

“I don’t want to forecast personnel changes, but obviously there are consequences for this,” Turnbull told 3AW. “In this case, it is clear – and I’m not passing the buck, it is fact, it’s been thoroughly investigated – that the fault was on the part of IBM, which was contracted to manage and operate the website.

“They had an obligation to protect it against denial-of-service attacks, and the measures that they’d agreed to put into place, they hadn’t, and they didn’t work, and that’s why you had the problems that occurred.

“And there were a number of other failures, but, fundamentally, that’s the reason for the problem,” he said.

Turnbull’s comments come after the special advisor to the Prime Minister on cyber security, Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet, Alastair MacGibbon, called out both the ABS and IBM over the outage.

“In many respects, while I will say to you that this was a failure to deliver on the contractual obligations that IBM had, there was a failure on the part of ABS to sufficiently check that the contract had been delivered,” MacGibbon told the Parliamentary committee investigating the 2016 Census.

“That could have been achieved through more assessments of the work done for them by IBM and their subcontractors,” he said.

Meanwhile, Turnbull reiterated that the ABS is currently searching for any accountability on its side as part of an ongoing internal investigation.

Turnbull’s latest comments on the Census outage come amid an ongoing blame game that has seen IBM claim that one of its two internet service providers on the Census project, Nextgen, and it’s upstream partner, Vocus, did not properly implement its ‘Island Australia’ geo-blocking DDoS attack prevention measures.

This is an accusation Nextgen and Vocus have both rejected.

Big Blue was contracted by the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) to develop and manage the 2016 Census online portal in a 9.7 million deal.

For its part, the tech giant has questioned some of its internal processes following the incident, with IBM engineer, Michael Shallcross, suggesting that the company’s efforts to instruct Nextgen and Vocus in the implementation of its geo-blocking DDoS prevention had failed.

“It’s apparent from the submissions brought by Nextgen and Vocus that perhaps the internal communications had not conveyed adequately the intent and instructions of and surrounding the implementation of Island Australia,” Shallcross told the senate committee investigating the project.

Join the PC World newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.

Tags Kerry PurcellMalcolm TurnbullIBMcensusAustralian Government

Our Back to Business guide highlights the best products for you to boost your productivity at home, on the road, at the office, or in the classroom.

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.
Leon Spencer
Show Comments

Most Popular Reviews

Latest News Articles


PCW Evaluation Team

Azadeh Williams

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

A smarter way to print for busy small business owners, combining speedy printing with scanning and copying, making it easier to produce high quality documents and images at a touch of a button.

Andrew Grant

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

I've had a multifunction printer in the office going on 10 years now. It was a neat bit of kit back in the day -- print, copy, scan, fax -- when printing over WiFi felt a bit like magic. It’s seen better days though and an upgrade’s well overdue. This HP OfficeJet Pro 8730 looks like it ticks all the same boxes: print, copy, scan, and fax. (Really? Does anyone fax anything any more? I guess it's good to know the facility’s there, just in case.) Printing over WiFi is more-or- less standard these days.

Ed Dawson

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

As a freelance writer who is always on the go, I like my technology to be both efficient and effective so I can do my job well. The HP OfficeJet Pro 8730 Inkjet Printer ticks all the boxes in terms of form factor, performance and user interface.

Michael Hargreaves

Windows 10 for Business / Dell XPS 13

I’d happily recommend this touchscreen laptop and Windows 10 as a great way to get serious work done at a desk or on the road.

Aysha Strobbe

Windows 10 / HP Spectre x360

Ultimately, I think the Windows 10 environment is excellent for me as it caters for so many different uses. The inclusion of the Xbox app is also great for when you need some downtime too!

Mark Escubio

Windows 10 / Lenovo Yoga 910

For me, the Xbox Play Anywhere is a great new feature as it allows you to play your current Xbox games with higher resolutions and better graphics without forking out extra cash for another copy. Although available titles are still scarce, but I’m sure it will grow in time.

Featured Content

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?