Friday, 21 October 2016 09:00

Census 2016: Nextgen hits back at IBM claims Featured

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Nextgen Networks has hit back at IBM's claims that it was to blame for the census stuff-up, saying that its offer of protection against distributed denial of service attacks was rejected.

IBM accused both Nextgen and, through it, Vocus Communications, of not effectively implementing a geo-blocking plan that had been agreed upon to block foreign traffic from the census website in the event of an attempted DDoS.

The site was taken offline on 9 August at about 7.30pm, with claims that a distributed denial of service was to blame. No proof has yet been offered to back up this claim.

In its submission to the parliamentary panel set up to inquire into the census debacle, Nextgen said it had, as requested by IBM, supplied it with a standard Internet service and met all its service levels.

"Although Nextgen strongly recommended to IBM to take up an Internet DDoS protection option for the purposes of the 2016 census, it was declined by IBM," Nextgen said.

In support of this claim, it said it had attached a copy of a commercial proposal to IBM and email confirmation of IBM's rejection of it. These attachments have been redacted from public view as they are said to be "commercial in confidence".

The submission said that although Nextgen made this proposal to IBM on 12 January 2015, it was not privy to IBM's geo-blocking strategy — known at IBM as Island Australia — until 20 July this year.

Nextgen says it provided all possible assistance to IBM to put the geo-blocking strategy in place, "which is well beyond what is provided for a standard Internet service".

"Nextgen complied with the IBM 'Island Australia' framework requirements provided by IBM, which was activated for testing on 5 August by IBM. IBM advised Nextgen that the test results were successful and positive. IBM’s intention was to activate IBM's 'Island Australia' only when there was a DDoS attack and would accordingly instruct Nextgen to do so when needed," the submission says.

The Island Australia plan was tested on 5 August at 6am, according to Nextgen. "IBM advised Nextgen that the testing was successful soon after. The same configuration used on 5 August was to be used if IBM was ever to instruct Nextgen to activate 'Island Australia'," the submission says.

Nextgen says there were three DDoS attacks on the census site during the day on 9 August. A fourth attack at 7.27pm resulted in the site becoming unresponsive.

The company said it could show that the fourth attack affected both links, using traceroutes provided by IBM. (These traceroutes have been redacted from public view as they contain names of employees and security information).

The submission adds that there were a number of routes without geoblocking during the fourth DDoS attack, and which were not identified during testing, along with the Singapore link mentioned by IBM.

It said IBM's router facing the Nextgen link was rebooted soon after the attack and that IBM kept the Nextgen link down until it was comfortable there was no data breach.

After the fourth DDoS attack, Nextgen offered to implement the DDoS protection option which it had earlier offered to IBM. It says it did so when it received instructions from IBM to do so on 13 August.

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Sam Varghese

Sam Varghese has been writing for iTWire since 2006, a year after the site came into existence. For nearly a decade thereafter, he wrote mostly about free and open source software, based on his own use of this genre of software. Since May 2016, he has been writing across many areas of technology. He has been a journalist for nearly 40 years in India (Indian Express and Deccan Herald), the UAE (Khaleej Times) and Australia (Daily Commercial News (now defunct) and The Age). His personal blog is titled Irregular Expression.

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