back to article IBM throws ISP under a bus for Australia's #Censusfail

IBM has blamed a supplier for causing the failure of Australia's online census, which went offline on the very night millions of households were required to describe their disposition. Big Blue's submission (PDF) to Australia's Standing Committees on Economics, which is conducting an Inquiry into the Preparation, …

  1. Andrew Commons

    Data security?

    I pointed out that the Canadian owned (at the time) NextGen were in the picture in a response to this post:

    The SSL/TLS connections terminated on their network. They potentially had access to all the responses on their network.

    So we have at least two foreign powers having access to the data submitted online.

    1. John Tserkezis

      Re: Data security?

      "So we have at least two foreign powers having access to the data submitted online."

      Hey, IBM, you picked them. Sounds like something Dr Phil would say...

  2. P. Lee Silver badge

    It was Entrapment!

    "First we try, then we trust."

    Dear IBM,

    Did you *test* the system? Did you demand to see the test plan for it and demand to see the results before it went live? Did you talk to your offshore branches and get them to try to access the site?

    That is the kind of thing you expect a large, competent vendor to do, right? That is why you don't do it yourself or go to the little system integrator down the road - because they might not have enterprise experience.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: It was Entrapment!

      That is the kind of thing you expect a large, competent vendor to do, right?

      IBM: large - yes, competent - questionable in my experience. Like so many large companies (including Oracle, Microsoft, Cisco ...) they seem to think that they are too big to fail, or event be blamed for a failure.

      1. GruntyMcPugh Silver badge

        Re: It was Entrapment!

        I used to work for them. It was quite frustrating at times. We had a lot of good people, but they were often stymied by poor 'managers' who seemed reluctant to do _anything_ probably out of fear of screwing up.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: It was Entrapment!

      Well if you wanted an honest answer, it would look something like this.....

      Dear Sir,

      No, we didn't test. We assumed that the multiple tick-box, out of date processes (drawn up by people who were made redundant years ago as their expertise was too expensive to retain) were just about adequate for the remaining cheap labour we employ to follow and implement. The assumption is always 'if an institution is stupid enough to use us, they will be too stupid to realise that they are paying a premium for shoddy and incomplete work'.

      While we are more than happy to take credit (and money) when things progress at a level not interesting to the wider press agencies, any project that fails spectacularly is immediately a failure on behalf of whatever 'partner' we can pin it on.


  3. eldakka Silver badge

    It was IBM's contract

    Since IBM where the ones who were contracted to provide the service, they are responsible and cannot blame anyone else for the problems. NextGen had no responsibility to the ABS or the Government for this service. Sure, NextGen had a responsibility to IBM, but that's a separate matter.

  4. dan1980

    That's all very interesting.

    BUT . . .

    We are still exactly where we were: the ABS assured us all that everything was air-tight and arrogantly dismissed any concerns, citing their (supposed) perfect record. Yet they relied on third-parties whose services they either weren't in position to adequately assess - or else they just didn't bother doing it properly.

    This new report doesn't shift the blame off the ABS at all. If anything, it makes the ABS even more culpable in their negligence because it introduces another party whose solution they did not test adequately.

    1. Denarius Silver badge

      ABS fault ?

      So a government body that has been gutted by successive PHB led collections of incompetents is somehow responsible for having funding stripped from it to force outsourcery ? I think not. How are government organisations starved of resources and internal technical skills because of market religious fanaticism to cope against some of the best sales droids on the planet ?

      ( $Deity forbid one suggests donors might have influenced policy) More likely wilful recruitment of mindless drone clones of Ayn Rand ilk by "policy groups" in PM&C, Treasury IMNSHO.

      Disclosure: Long time ago I worked for ABS. Of the multitude of government bodies I have worked for over decades they would be the best managed.

      1. Diogenes

        Re: ABS fault ?

        What budget cut?


        Normal ups and downs for census.

        1. Denarius Silver badge

          Re: ABS fault ?

          cant tell you that the IT component of annual budget was deliberately reduced by Treasury/Finance. There is always more money for executives which may level the total cash. Not to mention the well known slashing of all government departments over decades. The fat went in Hawkes reign. Muscle cutting in Keating and blood and bone with Jackboot, Julia, Crudd and the the feral monk.

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Yeah, right, the other one's got bells on.

    The whole thing was failing way before any DDOS from Singapore, because it hadn't been scoped for the level of traffic they were getting. IBM shutting it all down was after the horse had bolted - the DDOS was a red herring.

    I note none of the board of ABS have been sacked yet...

  6. Adam 1

    They are so far out of their depth. It would be funny if not for the millions of man-hours wasted that evening and the almost certainty that the information collected will be pwned at some point.

    The ddos was too small to even register on global attack map yet overwhelmed their configuration. And they believed that all the bad guys are overseas and can therefore be easily blocked on IP ranges. That strategy was never going to cut it. They clearly haven't looked at the paid er "load test services" on offer over the dark web. You know, the ones where you can select the country from which the attack should originate. The only thing that surprised me is that noone took credit for it. That combined with the lack of presence on digital attack map leads me to believe they ddos'd themselves by underprovisioning.

    1. Diogenes

      As i keep sayingthe times are suspicious, its amaaaaaaaysing that thatsomebody OS thought to hidetheir attack at smoko, lunch and after dinner.

    2. Cpt Blue Bear

      "The ddos was too small to even register on global attack map yet overwhelmed their configuration."

      That's because it didn't happen.

      The system failed under load and the work experience lad running it panicked. IBM have admitted as much in their submission (well OK, the panic bit rather than who was in charge). The DDOS story came out because that's what they thought they were dealing with at the time and now they can't take it back without looking like muppets. This is a classic management face-saving situation.

  7. Woza

    All aboard

    for the circular firing squad.

  8. ecofeco Silver badge

    Pffft... no brainer


    If you've ever worked for them, you know who's fault it is.

  9. russsh

    Island Australia

    Sounds like a job for TA and the Border Force - "Stop the bytes"

  10. RudderLessIT
    Paris Hilton

    So there was a DDOS Attack/Event/Fluffy Bunny?

    I thought there was no evidence of a DDOS <insert euphemism here> thing happening - but these guys are saying there was four?

    Can someone shed light on these?

    These are articles are really helpful... and there is another vendor to add to my DO NOT USE list...

  11. DavidRa

    OK where's the evidence?

    You all know what I mean. Where's the emails (on either side) showing that they are telling the truth?

    My employer keeps everything for 7 years. If this involved them, there'd be plenty of people involved in the project saying "Well, $Boss, here's the emails where we told them and they told us we were wrong" or similar.

    The lack of any evidence on either side produced by any of the parties involved just SCREAMS incompetence or collusion.

    IBM, ABS, et al: Which will it be?

  12. rtb61

    So What

    You know what the client says to the builder when then house collapses and the builder says, not my fault, the subcontractors fault. I don't give a crap about anyone else, I paid you to do a job, how you choose to do it, your choice, the consequences your fault, whether employee or contractor.

    IBM was paid to look after it, it failed, IBMs fault, end of story.

  13. Medixstiff

    I'm kicking myself I didn't read the article on ABC yesterday, the news ticker at the bottom of the morning program stated "IBM claims census fail could have been resolved by turning router off-and-on again.

  14. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Just as well we have crap net access in Oz

    Otherwise it could have caused a problem.....hey Mal?

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