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Backflip: Government Services minister admits no myGov cyber-attack

The myGov website has buckled under the volume of people attempting to access their coronavirus supplement payments. (Source: Getty)

UPDATED 3:17pm

Government Services Minister Stuart Robert has backflipped on his statement just hours earlier that cyber-attacks to the myGov website had been a partial cause for the site to be inaccessible for several hours this morning and afternoon.

“Unfortunately, this morning, we also suffered a distributed server attack on our main channels which highlights other threats still are there,” he said in a press conference at 1:20pm.

But during Parliamentary Question Time at around 3pm, Robert reportedly said that the sheer volume of traffic had been what triggered a distributed denial of service (DDOS) attack.

Before the revelations, Twitter users were already casting doubt over Roberts’ claim, with some pointing out that the government also offered the same reason when the Census website crashed in 2016.

Earlier today, Watts also cast doubt over the claim of a cyber attack.

“Incredible sophistication from these attackers to coordinate simultaneous digital and physical denial of service attacks on Centrelink/mygov,” he tweeted.

“Or... maybe... just possibly.. the government just didn’t plan for the surge in demand. Yeah, it was probably hackers.”

UPDATED 1:30pm

Government Services Minister Stuart Robert has revealed that the higher-than-usual traffic to the myGov website today was not the only reason why the platform has been inaccessible for hours.

Speaking at a press conference from Canberra, Robert said that the normal number of users allowed on the myGov site at any given time had been increased from 6,000 to 55,000 over the weekend.

Minister for Government Services Stuart Robert at a press conference at Parliament House in Canberra, Monday, March 23, 2020. (AAP Image/Mick Tsikas)

But there is a more malicious reason why users haven’t been able log in: the platform has also been hit by a cyber attack designed to overwhelm the system with so much traffic that it is essentially inaccessible.

“Unfortunately, this morning, we also suffered a distributed server attack on our main channels which highlights other threats still are there,” Robert said.

“MyGov has not been offline. It simply suffered from a distributed denial of service (DDOS) attack this morning, and currently it's processing 55,000 concurrent users which means the 55,001st user will not be able to access it.

“As users move off the 55 thousand that's when new users can come on.”

However, he refused to give a time frame for when the website would be back up and running.

“At present there are delays. We don't give a running commentary on delays.”

He continued to deny that the site crashed, arguing that the website is designed to only accommodate a set number of users at any given time.

“The site didn't crash. More than 55,000 Australians trying to access at the same time, as well as the issue we had with the denial of service attack.”

The myGov website is down. The platform is the portal to claiming the coronavirus supplement payments. (Source: Yahoo Finance screenshot)

Robert said in the press conference that the site was hit by cyber attacks more often than people might realise.

“You can have current users and defeat of denial service attack [hit a system at the same time],” he said.

“We run one of the largest cyber operation centres in line with Home Affairs and the ASD and work collaboratively.”

What do I do if I want to make a claim?

Users wanting to register themselves to claim their Coronavirus Supplement payments can lodge an “intent to claim” from today, he said.

“You'll be able to let Services Australia know that you intend to claim for a job seeker payment and then you can process or call through in the coming days or weeks at your leisure.”

Lodging your intent to claim from today will allow for your payments to be backdated to today, he said.

11:18am

The all-in-one government services platform myGov has crashed as scores of Australians rush to the website to claim their coronavirus supplement payments.

On Sunday, Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced that Aussies who have lost their jobs as a result of the coronavirus are eligible for the new time-limited supplement of $550 per fortnight.

But to claim the payments, you need to have a myGov account, which can be set up online.

But the extra traffic to the government’s website has seen the site buckle and give way under the strain, and this morning a number of users reported they were unable to access the platform.

Centrelink offices across Australia are also seeing ‘hours-long’ queues as people who have never received a Centrelink payment are required to verify their identity in person.

One person who was able to get through to a Centrelink customer service operator on the phone indicated they found their experience unhelpful.

Coronavirus supplements

Newstart and other welfare recipients will also see their fortnightly $550 payments doubled to $1,100 for the next six months as part of a $66 billion stimulus package designed to cushion the blow for Aussies as the Covid-19 pandemic worsens.

Sole traders and casual workers who meet the income test will also receive the welfare payments.

“The supplement will provide an additional $550 a fortnight on top of the existing JobSeeker, or Newstart payment and will be available to sole traders, casual workers who meet the income test,” said Treasurer Josh Frydenberg.

“This means, anyone eligible for the maximum JobSeeker payment will now receive more than $1100 a fortnight, effectively doubling the JobSeeker allowance.”

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