Australian minister mistakenly cries DDoS attack after citizens flock to welfare site

Security system for the country's welfare service trigged by 95,000 people attempting to log in at once

An Australian MP had to backtrack on claims that the country's welfare website suffered a cyber attack, revealing that it was actually a fault with the government's own security systems.

Services Minister Stuart Roberts told reporters that the country's myGov site had gone down due to a DDoS attack, according to The Guardian, which turned out to be a misconfigured alarm system triggered by a surge in users. 

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Thousands of Australians flooded the myGov online portal on Monday morning after the federal government doubled unemployment benefits to help support people suddenly out of work due to the coronavirus pandemic. However, the website became sluggish just after 9 am, with many users being unable to access services.

Roberts told reporters during an afternoon press conference that the myGov website "simply suffered from a distributed denial of service attack", although he refused to provide further details.

Less than two hours later, however, Roberts had to backtrack on that statement and explain to the Australian parliament that an alarm designed to detect and stop DDoS attacks was triggered when some 95,000 people tried to access the system at the same time.

"The DDoS alarms showed no evidence of a specific attack today," he confirmed to parliament.

Service Australia had expected a surge in users as it upgraded the myGov site over the weekend so believed it could handle the spike, according to The Guardian.

Even before Roberts backtracked on the cyber attack claims, members of the country's opposition party were skeptical, with Labour MP Tim Watts of the opposition tweeting: "Incredible sophistication from these attackers to coordinate simultaneous digital and physical denial of service attacks on Centrelink/mygov. Or... maybe... just possibly.. the government just didn't plan for the surge in demand. Yeah, it was probably hackers."

The leader of the opposition party, Anthony Albanese, called it an "incompetence attack", according to The Guardian, and Shadow Services minister Bill Shorten took to Twitter to accuse Roberts of lying.

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