ABS confirms 2021 census did not experience any breaches or disruptions

The 2021 census was considered a “success”, with the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) confirming that it had received an estimate of 6.2 million census forms by Wednesday 8:00 am AEST.

Of the total, ABS reported that 6.1 million forms were submitted online through the digital census service and the rest by post.

The peak online period was at 8:06 p.m. when ABS received around 141 submissions per second. No interruptions, excessive wait times or security breaches were reported by ABS, according to Assistant Treasurer Michael Sukkar.

“I want to thank the millions of Australians who have played their part in the success of the 2021 census so far, and we want to continue to see the numbers increase and the forms arrive,” he said.

“It is also important to remind Australians that it is not too late to submit your census form. The Australian Bureau of Statistics continues to collect census forms. Please visit the census website or contact by phone if you need more information on how to complete your census.

“I would also like to thank the work of the Australian Bureau of Statistics, the Australian Cyber ​​Security Center, the Digital Transformation Agency and all government agencies and their employees who have helped make the 2021 census a process. transparent. “

The ABS focused on preparations for the 2021 census to avoid an embarrassing repeat of what happened in the 2016 census, when the ABS suffered a series of small denial of service attacks ( DDoS), suffered a hardware router failure, and balked at a false positive report of exfiltrated data, which resulted in the closure of the census website and the inability for citizens to complete their submissions online.

The census was run on on-site infrastructure purchased from tech giant IBM.

The 2021 census, however, was built using the Amazon Web Services cloud under a contract awarded to PwC Australia.

In March, Australian assistant statistician Teresa Dickinson told Senate estimates that preparations for the 2021 census were on track, while confirming that the agency was working with more than 50 suppliers and partners on the census.

“Census Day is August 10, and we are on the right track. the reason is that we still have some testing and bug fixes to do on our technical work, ”Dickinson said at the time. “But we are on the right track to do so, by the time the form goes live.”

In response to the ubiquity of the 2016 Census, there were three reviews that made 36 recommendations, 29 of which focused on ABS and were agreed to. The Australian National Audit Office (ANAO) also prepared a report.

The ANAO in November described the preparation of the 2021 census by the ABS as “partially effective”.

He said that generally appropriate frameworks have been established to cover census computer systems and data processing, as well as the procurement of IT vendors, but the ABS has no arrangements in place to ensure improvements to its architecture framework, change management processes and cybersecurity measures. will be implemented before the 2021 census.

“The ABS was in part effective in addressing key census risks, implementing the recommendations of the previous census and ensuring the timely delivery of the 2021 census,” added the auditor. “More management attention is required on the implementation and evaluation of risk controls. “

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