ATO denies data loss after two-day outage

ATO denies data loss after two-day outage

Agency officials and HPE continue to work on the issue

The Australian Taxation Office (ATO) has moved to reassure Australians that no data was lost as a result of the agency's two day systems outage which rendered key systems, portals, and the ATO website inoperable.

The federal agency issued a statement on 14 December via its Let’s Talk website saying that there had been no loss of data as a result of the outage, which saw the department turn to its technology partner, HPE, to investigate the issue.

“While we experienced some corruption of data, we are in the process of fully restoring this information from back-up,” the ATO said. “No taxpayer information has been compromised.”

The ATO website was restored on the afternoon of 13 December, and its case management systems have also been brought back online. However, the agency said that its Tax Agent Portal and some other services were still being revived.

“We are working towards bringing the Tax Agent Portal back online later today and will confirm when it is functional.

“Other services will be brought online gradually over the coming days and we will continue to keep the community informed of our progress.

“We will work with any clients to ensure they are not disadvantaged because of the systems issues," the ATO said.

A Tweet from the ATO's official account regarding the outage
A Tweet from the ATO's official account regarding the outage

The ATO called for assistance from its applicable service provider Hewlett Packard Enterprise on Monday to address the issue. The Register reported on Tuesday that the outage was caused by a failure of a new HPE 3Par storage system.

The ATO's move to address concerns over lost data follows media reports by Fairfax suggesting that the outage saw "vast amounts" of data lost as a result of the systems crash, with the agency trying to recover a petabyte of data.

"The petabyte of data referred to in media reports relates to storage capacity, which includes not only data but applications and systems as well," the ATO said. "This figure does not relate to data impacted by the outages.

"While we experienced some data corruption, we are in the process of fully restoring this data from back-up. No data has been lost," it said.

Likewise, the ATO moved to quell rumours that its staff had been "sitting idle" after the outage left its CRM system down for several hours on 13 December.

"Our internal case management systems are back online and staff are able to perform normal duties," the ATO said. "Alternative work arrangements were made over the past few days for any staff member who was unable to perform their normal duties due to the outages.

"Many staff were not directly impacted by the outages and were able to work as normal," it said.

Meanwhile, HPE has remained tight-lipped over the issue, while it works with the ATO to investigate the problem and restore services.

HPE had not responded to ARN's requests for comment at the time of writing.

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