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Thread: Internet Security/Malware/Spam

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You underestimate the power of the Dark Side!

Census Surprise


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Date: Wed, 10 Aug 2016 12:11:09 +1000

On Tuesday the 9th August, millions of Australians dutifully took to the Internet and attempted to fill out their Census from online as they had been instructed to.

The resulting fiasco left many including your humble blogger nonplussed but not alarmed.

It wasn't long before the phrase DDoS attack surfaced in the media currents and eddies. The minister responsible, Michael McCormack then further muddied the waters by emphatically denying this ... And then, instead of heeding the old adage that when one is in a hole one should immediately cease digging ... Made it worse by trying to to divert the conversation to a semantic argument about the word attack ...

This left your blogger just as bemused as he contemplated a Distributed Denial of Service Attack that was not an Attack ... Would this have qualified as a Claytons DDoS? (That's the attack you have have when you are not having an attack).

And it wasn't long before friend of this website emailed with the question:

Was it a denial-of-service attack as the PM put it on TV this morning? Or was it an inability-to-plan-and-deliver-service attack as your mate Dan suspects? If in any doubt here, ask Centrelink, or the PM Dept's (just to be cute and tongue-in-check with it), or maybe the AFP, or George Brandis (he knows a helluva lot about metadata for example).

Now in your blogger's most humble opinion, DDoS attacks are one of the more low-level types of mischief that can be encountered on the Internet. They are well understood, and most providers know how to prepare for them.

However while there may or may not have been a DDoS attack (or DDoS non-attack as Minister McKormack would have us describe it), the most damning utterance during the aftermath was the assertion that the ABS had designed the site to handle up to "1 million form submissions per hour" ...

Now dear reader your blogger is not an expert in these matters. He is merely a humble systems analyst ... And in all humility your blogger must opine that 1 million per hour translates to 278 per second ... Now dear reader on Tuesday night on the Eastern sea board of Australia, after having their dinner, is it likely that in the 3600 seconds between 1900 AEST and 2000 AEST that more than 277 other people, just like your most humble blogger, might be attempting to submit a Census form?

Now if there were ... Let's say 600 people trying to submit forms at 1 second past 1900 ... Then the Census website is over-loaded and cannot process them ... So they try again and maybe another 600 join them ... etc, etc.

This of course is all theoretical ... Your blogger suspects that the actual number was probably more like a million ... And if they all hit the Census website at 1900 AEST, the site cannot cope with a million forms per second and it is cooked ... As they admit in their own design specifications ... Because the site is only built to cope with a million forms per hour.

Furthermore in your blogger's most humble opinion the problems encountered during the Census were quite simply a design flaw in Census and the talk about DDoS is unnecessary FUD.


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