IBM questions internal processes after Census outage

IBM questions internal processes after Census outage

Tech giant concedes failure to clearly communicate a DDoS mitigation plan to upstream partners

IBM managing director A/NZ, Kerry Purcell

IBM managing director A/NZ, Kerry Purcell

Meanwhile, Purcell also confirmed that IBM has neither sacked nor disciplined any employees following the failure of the Census site and IBM-supplied infrastructure to withstand a DDoS attack.

This is despite previous reports that two senior executives had resigned soon after the debacle, and calls by Prime Minister, Malcolm Turnbull, that “heads will roll” over the outage.

At the same time, Purcell revealed that he is in talks with the federal treasury to pay compensation costs to the government, following the Census debacle.

“I’m engaged directly with the secretary of the treasury, John Fraser, and we are looking to constructively resolve the matter as soon as possible. I’m confident we’re able to achieve some kind of outcome in the very near future,” Purcell said.

Purcell’s comments followed claims by former ABS chief, Bill McLennan, that the impact of job cuts at the agency may have led to a “gross lack of experience” among senior staff.

This is a charge that IBM representatives have challenged, with Purcell and Shallcross both suggesting they had not seen or experienced any technical weaknesses within the Bureau’s IT ranks.

For his part, current ABS boss, David Kalisch, apologised for any inconvenience caused by the outage, but has continued to hold IBM accountable, telling the committee that IBM’s systems should have been more “robust”.

“The ABS made a number of poor judgments in our preparation for the Census that led to poor service experienced by many households, and I apologise to the community on behalf of the ABS,” Kalisch told the committee.

“We made a difficult decision to taker the system offline on August 9 to ensure the security of Census data, but we should not have got to that point, and the IBM systems should have been more robust to DDoS events,” he said.

Kalisch said that he was surprised to learn that the series of DDoS attacks overwhelmed the Census website, given the assurances that systems had been put into place to secure it against such attacks.

Additionally, Kalisch announced the establishment an independent panel to assess the quality of the 2016 Census data, and promised that the next Census, due in 2021, will adopt a more “rigorous” approach, following the events of this year’s Census.

It is not clear, however, how this move may affect IBM’s long-time relationship with the Bureau.

The inquiry continues.

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Tags ABSIBMcensusKerry PurcellDavid KalischMichael ShallcrossBill McLennan

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