ABS shuts down census website after cyber attack

UPDATE: The ABS says Tuesday’s assault on the census web site was a “denial of service“ attack and not an attempt to access data.

The Bureau is hoping to have the site up again by Wednesday night and is working with the Defence Department’s intelligence agency to try to pinpoint exactly where the attacks originated.

China has previously been accused of cyber attacks on government departments.


The opposition is demanding the resignation of Michael McCormack, the minister responsible for the census and have also criticised the fact that the position of chief statistician has been vacant for a year.

Internet security expert Dr Mark Gregory says by promising Australians their information would be safe, they threw out a challenge to hackers.

“They inadvertently put the challenge out there,” he said.

“And someone, or more than one group have taken up that challenge. The ABS has admitted that there was a minor breach to a third party system … so what we’ve got is the ABS trying to work on plugging the gap and getting the system back on line.”

Chief Statistician David Kalisch says two million forms were submitted and everyone who managed to get onto the site, including Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, can rest assured their details were securely stored.

EARLIER: The Australian Bureau of Statistics says it shut down the census website on Tuesday night after an attack by overseas hackers.

According to ABS chief statistician David Kalisch there is no doubt there was a malicious attack on the site.

Mr Kalisch has told the ABC they are working with technical experts in Canberra to find out exactly where the attack originated, but that could be very difficult to pinpoint.

The first attacks began early on Tuesday and were fended off, but they intensified late in the afternoon and by 7pm people started having trouble with only around a million managing to lodge their forms.

That’s when the ABS started shutting down the site, which they hope to have up again on Wednesday night.

Mr Kalisch said the details of people who succeeded in lodging their forms,  including Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, were secure.

“I can certainly reassure Australians the data they provided is safe,” he said.

The ABS has promised not to fine people who couldn’t complete their forms.

The minister in charge of the Census, Michael McCormack, will hold a news conference in Canberra on Wednesday.