back to article Windows 10 update slips past Aussie border force and borks access to its Integrated Cargo System

Companies using the Australian Border Force's (ABF) Integrated Cargo System (ICS) are having problems connecting to the portal using Internet Explorer. The issue, which officials attribute to a Windows 10 update on 8 October, has forced some users to roll back the changes in order to connect to the system through the venerable …

  1. Blockchain commentard

    As bad as a certain large South African bank whose job portal insists on IE 6,7,8 or 9 only. And they have no intention of updating it - says something about their grasp on modern technology.

    1. macjules

      Well, you need only look no further than most of the Global Distribution Systems for airline ticketing (Amadeus, Sabre, Galileo, Worldspan, Pegasus, Abacus, Travelport) to see this. Many have problems supporting anything but IE with Worldspan being exception in their incompetence by not supporting any browser but IE10 until around a year ago.

  2. N2

    W10 borks...

    Lather, rinse, repeat.

    1. a_yank_lurker

      Re: W10 borks...

      Not really, it's PHBs being unwilling to update the code as needed. The properly update the code would probably require spending some serious coin to migrate to a more modern (browser agnostic) framework. Coin the PHBs do not want to spend as long as Imbecile Explorer sort of works on the web site. Slurp has even said Imbecile Explorer should be ditched if you have any functioning grey matter.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        @a_yank_lurker - Re: W10 borks...

        How about the incompetent/lazy devs who coded specifically and deliberately for one single browser ?

        1. Ken Hagan Gold badge

          Re: @a_yank_lurker - W10 borks...

          If you go back far enough, there was a time when you could either write a complete standalone client (in theory for each OS, but typically in practice only Win9x) or you could save time on the UI by writing an ActiveX control and writing a few web pages.

          If you are a contractor, with zero interest in the long-term maintainability of the product, which would you pick? Is it the "incompetent/lazy" contractor's problem that customers went for the lowest bidder and then sat on the codebase for two decades watching it whither and never once thinking that it might soon be time to re-open their wallet?

          1. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

            Re: @a_yank_lurker - W10 borks...

            If you are a contractor, with zero interest in the long-term maintainability of the product, which would you pick?

            Doing it correctly. But then I suppose that's one reason I'm not a contractor.

        2. Mongrel

          Re: @a_yank_lurker - W10 borks...

          "How about the incompetent/lazy devs who coded specifically and deliberately for one single browser ?"

          There's a reasonable chance that it feeds back to the bosses again; why pay for competent devs when you can off-shore it for a fraction of the price and downsize the QA team, someone has to make sure the Directors get bonuses.

    2. ivan5

      Re: W10 borks...

      Yes, a typical Micro SNAFU. Anyone can see it is normal for win 10 updates.

  3. John70

    If Integrated Cargo System isn't going to be updated to use modern browsers, Aussie Border Force needs to dump it ASAP.

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    "...the ABF have been working with teams from Unisys, IBM, Home Affairs and Microsoft to find a resolution to these issues".

    Oh well. They're f**ked.

    1. Strahd Ivarius Silver badge

      Could be worse, Capita could have been involved...

      1. Anonymous Coward
      2. sanmigueelbeer

        Could be worse, Capita could have been involved

        It is worst than Capita: ABF's IT is mangled by none-other-than IBM Australia.

        Used to work for Aust Customs Services and all I can say is that this organization doesn't look at "IT" too kindly. Old guards composed of ex-Australian Navy (flag officers) with a "JFDI" mentality can make "do the right thing" difficult. "Change control? What change control? I don't care about change control. Turn it on OR ELSE ..."

        When I left in 2008, ACS still had a lot of "servers" running on NT and COBOL that had an uptime of >5 years.

        I remembered in 2010, the CIO of ACS had an interview with ZDnet and he explained/bragged how, under his leadership, he instilled a level of "reluctance" to technology. Let's just say he "quit" a few months after the interview was published.

        1. Ruisert

          COBOL?!? Do they also still have mainframes that use Hollerith card readers? Clearly someone needs to drag them kicking and screaming into the 21st century.

    2. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

      The resulting directed graph of finger-pointing should be interesting.

  5. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

    "Far be it from us to speculate why the Australian Border Force should spank taxpayers' money on a portal that only works on a browser used by just over 6 per cent of users globally and whose maker is desperate for customers to leave it behind."

    That money was probably spanked when IE was new and shiny. Now somebody needs to tell them they need to spank some more, preferably several years ago so it would be ready now.

    1. Ken Hagan Gold badge

      ...would suggest that IE dropped below 50% around 2010 or so. If these twats have been asleep at the wheel since then I think their paymasters (taxpayers) might reasonably ask for them to repay all the salaries they've been paid over the last decade.

      1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

        "support" may mean that if you have an issue accessing their system, they will only help you if you use IE. It may still work with other browsers, but you are on your own if you have issues. Likewise, the number of issues their support team has to deal with is going to be tiny if only 6% of users are allowed to access that support. The other 94% of support calls are closed with "using unsupported browsers, call closed with satisfactory resolution".

        1. Diogenes

          If it is anything like our recently decommissioned HR system it will have a test that tests for version n of Internet Exploder & will display a message saying that only version n of IE can be used and it will not let you proceed.

          1. phuzz Silver badge

            Sometimes sites like that work just fine if you tweak the browser agent string you're sending.

          2. Ruisert

            Internet Exploder! YES! I was a contractor for M$ when they had IE3 out. Hispanic man called, needing help for "Internet Exploder." Me: "May I put you on hold a moment sir?" He: "Ok." Me, after placing man on hold: "Internet Exploder! Bwahahahahaaaa!" re-connects with customer. "I'm sorry, sir, but since Internet Explod, er Explorer is a free product, Microsoft does not offer any no-charge support options over the phone."

            I still call it that to this day.

    2. mathew42

      ICS was rolled out around 2004. I doubt it has been updated much since then. Project would likely have started more than 6 years before that.

      Also my possibly outdated understanding would have desktop software which integrates with ICS via the back end, so this would have impacted more on tiny firms which are unlikely to have dedicated IT resources.

      Note these are not excuses, just explanations of why we are here now.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        @Matthew. Close. Was a strong belief in manglement that Windows was the future. However a system that had 4 OS and applications was used. To give "BoredDor" benefit of doubt, Federal funding for keeping the lights on in all government departments has been reduced over decades, leaving little funding for basic maintenance, let alone updating. Add in outsourcerers who believe in not changing anything and the mass dispersal of original coders soon after system went live means doubt that updates are even possible now for user front ends.

      2. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

        "ICS was rolled out around 2004. I doubt it has been updated much since then. Project would likely have started more than 6 years before that."

        Standard Gov procurement. Talk and plan for years before implementing, then implement at great cost and expect project to run for at least 10 years with no further investment. And that sort of worked when people could choose when to update and what apps to use. But with MS now doing OS as a Service, enforcing monthly updates and annual OS replacements, that government procurement method for IT projects is now drastically broken. One option is to build systems using proper standards so they ought to last longer, but only real solution is to spec the system and build it, making sure that it can and will be updated as time goes by.

  6. Anonymous Coward

    Of course...

    Of course, if they'd not bothered updating from a green screen VT100 compatible system all those years ago, they'd still be able to run it in a browser-based VT emulator today. I blame all those people who believed Windows was the future. Pah! 'The future' only lasted 35 years.

    1. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

      Re: Of course...

      I don't know why you used the joke icon. What you wrote is entirely accurate. And a character-terminal UI could easily have been wrapped using screen-scraping or (for some terminal types) an emulation API, easily putting a GUI face on it for the point-and-click crowd.

      Of course, had they written the client to use standard HTTP and HTML, it would also work with all browsers. ActiveX controls in IE and other proprietary extensions did no one but Microsoft any favors, and even Microsoft has cause to regret them now that its browser near-monopoly is long gone.

  7. Adrian 4 Silver badge

    job opportunity

    Surely there's an opportunity for some enthusiastic chap(ess) to write a proxy that makes a modern browser look like IE to the site ?

    1. Michael Kean

      Re: job opportunity

      Just needs a few Windows 2000 boxes running Remote Desktop :)

      1. Sir Runcible Spoon

        Re: job opportunity

        Or an isolated VM

    2. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

      Re: job opportunity

      Not a good opportunity.

      Making another browser "look like IE to the site" is trivial. You just change the user agent string - for which there are already plenty of browser extensions and the like. At worst, you have to emulate some IE glitches if the back-end is particularly egregious in its browser sniffing.

      However, applications that require IE generally do so because they depend on proprietary extensions, most often ActiveX. Getting ActiveX controls to run in any sensible browser is not trivial, and highly undesirable. (Having ActiveX controls run in anything is a pretty bad idea, particularly in response to untrustworthy inputs. Anyone who remembers when dozens of BUGTRAQ posts every month mentioned phrases like "safe for scripting" (ha!) or "ActiveX kill bit" knows that all too well.

  8. Blackjack Silver badge

    What... no mobile app?

    I am curious why they don't have a mobile app when even South American governments and African governments have mobile apps.

    Want to stay retro? No problem, just do one that only works on Nokia dumbphones.

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Australian Border Force

    Less "force" more "theatre"

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Australian Border Force

      Less "force" more "theatre farce". FTFY

  10. Mateus109


    We're using a system that was written in Silverlight and so naturally only works with IE. We're still waiting for the developers to rewrite the system in something else but they've been promising this for the last 24 months.

    1. Francis Boyle Silver badge


      I feel your pain.

    2. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

      Re: Silverlight

      Firefox supported Silverlight up until Release 52, so you could always use a two-year-old FF build instead...

      I think Chrome discontinued support around the same time. To be honest, if I had a single mission-critical app that required Silverlight in the browser, I'd be kind of tempted to fork Firefox 51 and hack it so it would only connect to that server, and use it for just that purpose.

  11. Ken Moorhouse Silver badge


    Surprised they weren't using Edge.

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Same here

    Our company payroll contractor (ADP) recently introduced a mobile app to get our pay slips but we can only use it if we register on their webshite (that still requires IE.)

    Now IE has gone from our company desktop image, nobody can get their payslips or register from a work computer any more...

    I'm hoping ADP join the 21st century soon.

  13. Efer Brick

    Wonder if ...

    they'll pay the ramsome

  14. GrumpyKiwi

    Australia Govt IT = crap

    Pretty much every Australian government IT system I've ever dealt with has been utter crap (ABF, ASC and ATO). This is not to defend NZ Government IT who are also craptacular - it's pretty much just an observation on government IT in general.

  15. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    George Orwell would be chuffed.

    With "Police State Peter" Dutton as the Minister, it's no wonder IE is being used, probably easier to oversight the users of the system.

  16. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    currently working on a large project

    for a particular Australian state government (post anon for obvious reasons). And one of the requirements for the application, that will be used state wide is that it has to work, and work well, in IE11.

    I had forgotten how slow and awful IE11 was.

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