Australian Treasurer puts IBM on notice for compensation

Scott Morrison has said the government will look thoroughly into the Census 2016 failure, and will pursue it to 'the nth degree'.
Written by Chris Duckett, Contributor

Australian Treasurer Scott Morrison has called out IBM, saying that if it is found responsible for the failure of the Census 2016 website, the federal government will pursue the global giant.

"You can expect the government to look so thoroughly into this to understand where the ultimate system failure occurred, and where that responsibility lay, and if there are issues that relate to the service provider in this case, you can expect us to pursue that to the nth degree," Morrison told ABC radio on Friday morning.

Morrison said there is plenty of time for IBM and the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) to get it right, citing the AU$10 million contract Big Blue won in 2014, and the ABS' decision to move the Census online in 2011.

"The resources were there. The capability assessments and reviews were undertaken, the assurances were provided, and the events of 48 hours ago or thereabouts occurred."

The Census website reappeared on Thursday evening, and the treasurer said that more than 400,000 households have completed the survey since that time.

For its part, IBM has said nothing to the media, except for a statement released soon after the Census returned.

"We genuinely regret the inconvenience that has occurred," a spokesperson for the company said. "We want to thank the ABS, the Australian Signals Directorate, and Alastair MacGibbon for their continued support. IBM's priority over the last two days was to work with the ABS to restore the Census site.

"We are committed to our role in the delivery of this project. Continuing to maintain the privacy and security of personal information is paramount.

"The Australian Signals Directorate has confirmed no data was compromised. Our cybersecurity experts are partnering with national intelligence agencies to ensure the ongoing integrity of the site."

On Thursday afternoon, Australian Privacy Commissioner Timothy Pilgrim said he was satisfied that no personal information was exfiltrated from the Census systems during Tuesday night's shmozzle.

"The ABS's decision to shut down the website -- to avoid any prospect that the DoS attack could include or otherwise facilitate a data breach -- was, in the circumstances, a pro-privacy precaution," Pilgrim said.

With Special Adviser to the Prime Minister on Cyber Security MacGibbon set to conduct a review into what happened on Tuesday, Pilgrim said his office would work with MacGibbon as part of the broader review.

In an interview with the ABC, MacGibbon refused to give an absolute guarantee of the security of the Census site.

"There are no absolutes in cybersecurity; anyone that gives you absolutes is not fully understanding the cybersecurity game," he said. "Everything conceivably, possibly able to be done, will be done to protect it."

Such an absolute guarantee was given by the ABS to the Minister for Small Business Michael McCormack last week.


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