These past few weeks have shown the fragility of Australia's online systems. Unsurprisingly, the traditionally slow federal government IT systems are shrinking under pressure.
On Sunday federal government announced it double unemployment benefits as part of his coronavirus rescue package. But when MyGov's online services crashed, thousands of desperate Australians felt the need disobey the rules of social distance – Formation of long lines outside Centrelink offices across the country.
With widespread closing schools and universitiesIT services are currently an educational emergency plan. For many, they are the main means of interaction with the outside world.
Unfortunately, these services are as good as their design. And if designers do not prepare for extreme circumstances, such as this pandemic, they are doomed to failure.
MyGov failure outlined
According to the 2016 census, the number of Australians working in the hospitality industry is 6.9% of the populationThus, we can estimate that about 1.75 million people suffered from sector-wide hospitality provision of services shutters.
Economists evaluate additional measures of coronavirus so that #flattenthecurve can see unemployment rate doubles to over 11%That will be 2.8 million Australians – more than 22 times the number of users MyGov can support.
As of Sunday evening, the government online portal (to which people were directed to gain access to additional wealth) was able to cope with approximately 6000 people at a timeThis is only 0.3% of the expected number of Australians affected.
By mid-Monday, the number of users that MyGov can support has increased to 55,000, or 3.1% of the number affected. By Tuesday, this figure has grown to 123,000 users.or 7.5%.
But why was the system poorly provided?
Having a large number of users accessing the online portal at the same time is very expensive. Maintaining computer servers that can handle such a heavy load is expensive for any business, not to mention the government facing the threat of economic crisis,
The IT industry has solved this problem with cloud computing. This implies the availability of a set of computers owned by companies such as Amazon or Google, and the “rental” of their storage and computing power as needed.
To understand this, think about Elton John on the tour. He has no stadiums in every city. When he needs to speak, he rents them out as needed. He also chooses a venue of the appropriate size, as needed.
The same concept is applied in computer technology. The IT industry is now able to lease computing resources of the appropriate size as needed. In addition, systems can be designed to automatically increase leased storage and computing power when needed. This is called "elastic computing."
If MyGov and Centerlink used elastic calculations, crashes this week could have been prevented. Even the government Secure cloud strategy does not mention the use or support of elastic computing strategies. This is despite last year’s announcement that Amazon aws cloud, which supports elastic computing, is an Australian government cloud provider.
Denial of service attacks
In 2016, the federal government showed how poorly they understood user needs. Simply put, the online census was disastrous. Many people were unable to enter to complete it.Many of them failed and logged out prematurely.
But what caused #censusfail?
The developers of the system could not have foreseen that everyone would enter the system right away, that very night. The number of users fighting for access at the same time (taking into account different time zones throughout the country) amounted to up to a quarter of the population. Considering Australia has about 25.4 million peoplethis means that about 6.3 million people tried to conduct a census at the same time.
The system was not designed to handle. In computing, when a server has more users than it can service, the impact is the same as Denial of Service (DoS) An attack in which regular traffic cannot be processed. A denial of service attack by several devices is called a distributed denial of service (DDoS) attack. This is a mechanism that many hackers use to prevent the normal functioning of online systems.
Minister of Services Stuart Robert blamed MyGov's recent failure for targeted distributed denial of service (DDoS) the attack, not the inability of the website to cope with the number of people seeking access. He later edited his statement, saying: “DDoS signals showed no signs of a specific attack.”
Not too late
Long before Sunday, it was obvious that additional social security would be needed when COVID-19 left thousands of unemployed. The government has no excuse for not organizing additional computing resources.
Services Australia, a co-owner of MyGov and Centerlink, had to increase the number of allowed users on the website at a time before this need became nationwide.
Until the government adopts flexible computing strategies, the main online services will continue to work under pressure. If the events at the beginning of this week are any signs, it is safe to say that this transition will be better late than never.
MyGov’s untimely fall could be avoided by “elastic computing” (2020, March 27)
restored March 28, 2020
This document is protected by copyright. Other than honest deals for private study or research, no
Part may be reproduced without written permission. Content is provided for informational purposes only.