Aussie Stats Bureau Takes Site Offline After DDoS

The Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) was forced to take its census website offline overnight after suffering several DDoS attacks.

The five-yearly census suffered three attacks during Tuesday local time and then after 7.30pm was hit by a major fourth barrage, which it said coincided with a surge in genuine visitors to the site, presumably trying to fill in their forms online after work and before the midnight deadline.

The ABS also blamed a failing router and a “false positive” in system monitoring information – although it didn’t clarify the latter.

A statement on the ABS site had the following:

“The ABS applied an abundance of caution and took the precaution of closing down the online Census form to safeguard and to protect data already submitted, protect the system from further incidents, and minimize disruption on the Australian public of an unreliable service.

Government and ASD were notified by the ABS. Reviews by IBM, ASD and ABS have confirmed that this was not a hack – no Census data was compromised. Had these events occurred in isolation, the online system would have been maintained.”

Australians are now being told the deadline to complete the census has been extended, with no danger of any fines being imposed, as is usually the case in the country.

Spy agency the Australian Signal Directorate is believed to be investigating the source of the attacks, with authorities claiming they were launched from overseas, according to the BBC.

“The site will be restored as soon as the Australian Signal Directorate and the ABS and IBM are satisfied that it can be restored with all of the necessary defenses against denial of service and other attacks are in place," Aussie prime minister Malcolm Turnbull told the media.

"And the public will be advised as soon as that is done."

Jonathan Martin, EMEA operations director at threat intelligence firm Anomali, argued that under-fire security teams are often too preoccupied with ‘keeping the lights on’ they don’t have time to step back and see the bigger picture. 

“Attacks can be over extremely quickly, so having highly trained security teams ready to go, with the necessary knowledge and the right tools to make the right decisions under stressful situations means that the impact of the attack can be greatly reduced,” he added.

“Understanding the tips and techniques used by the attackers and pulling in threat intelligence from as many sources as possible ensures that the vulnerability or exposure of a company can be reduced down from many months to just minutes and hours.”

What’s Hot on Infosecurity Magazine?