MyGov website collapses again as Centrelink swamped

The MyGov website has crashed again, locking thousands of newly unemployed Australians out of government services this morning.

Despite Federal Government promises to strengthen the website yesterday and allow more users to access it at once, Services Australia reported widespread connection problems by 10am AEDT.

"We're experiencing intermittent issues online," the department posted on social media. "We're working hard to expand the capacity of our online services."

People lining up for hours to register at Centrelink Nundah, Queensland. Picture: AAP People lining up for hours to register at Centrelink Nundah, Queensland. Picture: AAP

Even though they were unable to register for a Centrelink reference number online or Newstart Allowance online, Service Australia advised jobseekers to refrain from queuing outside government offices "unless there is a critical need to be there" and to "keep trying" to access the service online.

Government Services Minister Stuart Robert, who was yesterday forced into an embarrassing backflip over claims the MyGov website was subject to a "cyber attack," said another spike in users was behind its latest problems.

"(Services Australia) have massively surged capacity into MyGov overnight," he said.

"There are right now 123,000 concurrent users."

People line up outside the Centrelink office at Hobart, Tasmania. Picture: Chris Kidd People line up outside the Centrelink office at Hobart, Tasmania. Picture: Chris Kidd

UNSW Canberra cyber director Nigel Phair said the Federal Government needed to urgently prioritise adding greater capacity to its network, which shouldn't be difficult.

"It's purely a bandwidth issue," he said.

"There are lessons to be learned from the online Census and this shows they haven't learned much."

Mr Robert has admitted he was wrong to blame hackers for bringing the MyGov website down, when it was actually overwhelmed by sacked Australians scrambling for benefits.

"I probably should have waited for the investigation before jumping the gun," he told 2GB radio today.

"We prepared over the weekend for 55,000 … I didn't think I'd have to prepare for 100,000 concurrent users.

People lined up at Centrelink in Cairns CBD, Queensland. Picture: Stewart McLean People lined up at Centrelink in Cairns CBD, Queensland. Picture: Stewart McLean

"My bad not realising the sheer scale of the decision on Sunday night by national leaders that literally saw hundreds of thousands, maybe a million, people unemployed overnight."

Labor is demanding a dedicated Centrelink hotline be established to help people navigate the welfare system.

People were again queuing outside Centrelink offices this morning, mirroring devastating scenes across the country on Monday when thousands lined up to register for unemployment benefits.

"They are scared, they are confused and they are stressed because of drastic changes to their financial situation," she told ABC radio.

"What they want is care, what they want is answers, what they want is urgency.

"Get the payments out, cut the red tape and worry about the paperwork later. People need help now."

An extra 5000 staff would be hired to deal with increased demand for government services, Mr Robert said, including the Centrelink call centre, though he admitted the surge in demand had been "challenging" on Monday.

People are seen waiting in line at the Prahran Centrelink office in Melbourne.
People are seen waiting in line at the Prahran Centrelink office in Melbourne. AAP

Both the Centrelink app and the entire MyGov portal fell over shortly before 9am AEDT on Monday, with users unable to log into their accounts to update their information or register for allowances including Newstart.

Some users on DownDetector said the MyGov portal had been suffering outages since Friday, and had stopped accepting file uploads.

Social media users also reported being unable to get through to Centrelink over the phone, instead met with messages to call back later.

"There is unprecedented demand for the service right now, but Australians need to be patient. Try logging on later today or even tomorrow," Government Services Minister Stuart Robert told AAP on Monday.

"MyGov is working, but the best option right now is for people to be patient."

Queues formed outside the Annerley Road Centrelink after the announcement by Prime Minister Scott Morrison on Sunday night. The line continued to grow until it was around the corner.
Queues formed outside the Annerley Road Centrelink after the announcement by Prime Minister Scott Morrison on Sunday night. The line continued to grow until it was around the corner. Kieran Bicheno

Minister backflips on Centrelink, MyGov outage claim

The MyGov website was not downed by a cyber attack, instead it crashed because more than 95,000 jobless Australians were trying to apply for coronavirus income support.

Government Services Minister Stuart Robert was forced to clarify his initial claim the site was the subject of a Distributed Denial of Service attack after the department investigated the crash and found no evidence of malice, only an overwhelming number of legitimate users.

"Advice to me this morning was that MyGov attracted 95,000 concurrent users, at 9.40am that triggered the DDoS alarms, denial of services alarms going off, and slowed the system," he said.

"Our systems have had multiple and sustained Denial of Service attacks over the past few weeks, the network alert status is now at high, this combined with all of the data that the 95,000 gave rise to a very strained performance because of the high number of usage, and that caused the outage.

"The DDoS alarms show no evidence of a specific attack today, that doesn't need there is no need for heightened cyber security."

Mr Robert said the government was currently looking at how to expand its current website capacity of 55,000 concurrent users.

"The system had been designed for 55,000 concurrent users so was overloaded by hitting 95,000 ... it was doing 6,500 users last week," he said.

An extra 5000 staff would be hired to deal with increased demand for government services, Mr Robert said, including the Centrelink call centre, though he admitted the surge in demand had been "challenging" today.

"We understand some of the pressures we're seeing across the network in these unprecedented times and I can assure all Australians that we have prepared," he said. "We suffer cyber attacks more often than I think people quite realise."

Long queues snaked around Centrelink offices around the country today as the Federal Government's online portal for unemployment benefits crashed under the increased strain caused by coronavirus lockdown measures.

Line-up at Centrelink Henley Beach on Monday 23 March 2020. Picture: Chloe Briddon
Line-up at Centrelink Henley Beach on Monday 23 March 2020. Picture: Chloe Briddon

 

Both the Centrelink app and the entire MyGov portal fell over shortly before 9am AEDT, with users unable to log into their accounts to update their information or register for allowances including Newstart.

Some users on DownDetector said the MyGov portal had been suffering outages since Friday, and had stopped accepting file uploads.

Social media users also reported being unable to get through to Centrelink over the phone, instead met with messages to call back later.

"There is unprecedented demand for the service right now, but Australians need to be patient. Try logging on later today or even tomorrow," Government Services Minister Stuart Robert told AAP on Monday.

"MyGov is working, but the best option right now is for people to be patient."

The platform's crash came the day after Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced stringent lockdown measures to ensure social distancing, shuttering cafes, pubs, clubs, casinos and gyms during the pandemic in an effort to stop the spread of COVID-19 in Australia.

Australians are being urged to stick together as they face what will be the most challenging year of their lives.

In an address to a socially distanced House of Representatives in Canberra, Prime Minister Scott Morrison insisted the virus was a huge challenge, the biggest most living Australians had ever faced, but said they would get through it.

"In the weeks ahead, this will put us all to the test," Mr Morrison said.

"Together, Australia, we are up to this challenge."

He said the challenge would not break the Australian spirit.

 

Centrelink queues are getting longer and longer.
Centrelink queues are getting longer and longer.

He said the challenge would not break the Australian spirit.

Fewer than 80 politicians sat in the chamber to hear the address, ahead of a long day passing budget and stimulus measures.

Mr Morrison said the elected parliamentarians had "important work to do" on Monday.

For many young and old Australians 2020 will be the "toughest year of our lives" the prime minister warned in a sombre coronavirus speech to parliament.

Mr Morrison outlined the dire outlook at the opening of a special parliament sitting week in Canberra with a reduced number of politicians attending to pass the federal government's critical coronavirus stimulus package.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison in the House of Representatives at Parliament House in Canberra. Picture Gary Ramage
Prime Minister Scott Morrison in the House of Representatives at Parliament House in Canberra. Picture Gary Ramage

 

"Life is changing in Australia for every Australian and life is going to continue to change," Mr Morrison said.

"Meeting this challenge is bigger than any Australian.

"I will say this: while you may not be able to go to church, the synagogue, the temple or the mosque, I most certainly call on all people of faith in our nation to pray.

"I can assure you, my prayer knees are getting a good work out."

Mr Morrison said Australia was facing an immense economic challenge as it worked to flatten the curve.

"Across Australia today many thousands of Australians will lose their jobs," he said.

"They are lining up at Centrelink offices as we speak - something unimaginable at this scale only weeks ago.

"They have lost their jobs, many, and we know, many more will."

Mr Morrison said this was the biggest economic shock our nation has faced "in generations".

"Australia, long an open, trading nation, is now closed off largely from the world," he said.

"Internal border restrictions not seen since before federation are now in place."

Introducing the coronavirus stimulus package Bill, Treasurer Josh

Frydenberg described Australia's decision as battling an "enemy without a flag".

 

 

Originally published as Minister backflips on Centrelink, MyGov outage claim



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