Turnbull calls for cyber education of public in wake of Census debacle

Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has used the Census fiasco to call for new ways of talking about cybersecurity during a speech in Washington DC.
Written by Chris Duckett, Contributor

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has raised Australia's Census debacle to call for new ways of talking about cybersecurity.

In a speech to the Centre for Strategic and International Studies in Washington DC, Turnbull said Australia struggled with the meaning of the word "attack" after the denial-of-service incident that led to the Census website being shut down on Census night.

"If a nation state says that it has come under attack, the meaning, and therefore the act itself, is weighted with tremendous significance," he said.

"We need to be able to communicate an accurate level of significance."

The public needs to know that a denial-of-service is equivalent to having a bus block a driveway so a car can't get out, while a hack means someone breaking into a garage and stealing the car, Turnbull said.

"If we hear of an air disaster involving a cabin fire or an engine fire on an aircraft, we understand the difference between, and different implications of, those two scenarios," he said.

Speaking to the House Standing Committee on Economics yesterday, Reserve Bank Governor Philip Lowe said it is concerning if it is the case that 5 million households have not yet completed the survey.

"Many areas of government and in the private sector rely on these data to allocate resources and make decisions. It is a concern for us all," he said.

On Friday, Labor labelled the 2016 Census as the worst one ever.

"While the Turnbull government has bungled the Australian Census, Canada has just reported its highest response rate ever," Shadow Assistant Treasurer Andrew Leigh said. "Canada's 2016 Census, carried out primarily online, had a response rate of 98.4 percent.

"Australians have a right to know how many extra taxpayers' dollars has the government had to spend above the initial Census 2016 budget in order to rescue it."

The August 9 Census was pulled offline by the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) after it experienced a series of denial-of-service attacks, suffered a hardware router failure, and baulked at a false positive report of data being exfiltrated.

The Community and Public Sector Union (CPSU), in a submission to the Senate Standing Committee on Economics, which is conducting an inquiry into the 2016 Census, said financial pressures and the need for savings affected work on the Census.

"Members report the ABS only received half of the money they needed for the ICT transformation program," the CPSU said.

"The decision to try to save money by trying to cancel the Census in 2016 stopped planning for six months at a critical juncture," the union quoted one member as saying. "It was then too late to ensure systems would be ready."

With AAP

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