An error message is seen on the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) Census of Population and Housing website, as seen on a computer in Sydney, Wednesday, Aug. 10, 2016. The census website sustained four \
An error message is seen on the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) Census of Population and Housing website, as seen on a computer in Sydney, Wednesday, Aug. 10, 2016. The census website sustained four \"malicious\" targeted attacks by foreign hackers before being shut down. The Australian Bureau of Statistics has launched a joint investigation with the nation's defence intelligence agency into the assault, which ramped up on Tuesday evening as most of the population was going online to complete the survey. (AAP Image/Joel Carrett) NO ARCHIVING JOEL CARRETT

ABS claims international hack

THOUSANDS of Australians came together in confusion and anger on Tuesday night as their attempts at filling out the 2016 Census form online were met with messages of 'server down' and 'please try again in 15 minutes'.

The turned away applicants then took to social media to share their frustration under a false sense they would be slapped with a hefty fine every day their form was not complete.

Census memes.
Census memes.

But it turns out the Census debacle, which gained it's own hashtag #censusfail, could have been caused by overseas hackers.

Capricorn Enterprise CEO Mary Carroll (pictured) was among the frustrated few who attempted to fill out the Census form online multiple times on Tuesday night.

"It was very frustrating and I still haven't completed the Census," she said just before 3pm yesterday.

"For something so critically important it was certainly not the result the Australian Bureau of Statistics, or the public, would have liked or expected. I do understand though that no fines will be issued."

Ms Carroll said reports of the Australian Bureau of Statistics being hacked was a concern.

"Any online hacking is concerning," Ms Carroll said.

Mary Carroll from Capricorn Enterprises says a major impact of Cyclone Marica is the loss of business for local businesses which are steadily reopening now as power is restored to the region.   She encourages people to buy locally to support local businesses and jobs.   Photo: Chris Ison / The Morning Bulletin
Mary Carroll Chris Ison ROK240215cbusiness1

"Whether it be the ABS, banks or personal computers, no one likes the feeling of being hacked and unfortunately hacking occurs regularly."

The ABS senior statistician David Kalisch said yesterday the census website was attacked by hackers four times on Tuesday and said the attack was "clear it was malicious".

Mr Kalisch told ABC yesterday the online census form was subject to four denial of service attacks of varying nature and severity.

"The first three caused minor disruption and we received more than two million forms that were submitted and safely stored at the ABS. But we did then have a fourth attack just after 7.30pm, just probably when many people had finished their dinner and were sitting down to use the online census form, where we had a fourth attack and we took the precaution of closing down the system to ensure the integrity of the data.

"At this stage the information that we've received is that it came from an international source but we don't know any more."

Mr Kalisch said the decision to close down the ABS website confirmed the "strong position" the ABS takes on the security of information.

 

"If anything it actually confirms the strong position that the ABS has taken in terms of securing the integrity of the data and Australians can be assured that their data is secure at the ABS when they have lodged it and we took the precaution of closing down the system to ensure the integrity of the data.

"The system has a range of precautions that we have in place. With this fourth attack there was a gap that was found via a third party and that's now been remedied."

Australian Signals Directorate are investigating the issue.