Obamacare Exchanges System Designed to Commit a Denial of Service Attack Against Itself

The Obama administration has blamed the inability to actually apply for Obamacare on its online exchange system on “glitches” and heavier than anticipated traffic. But a story in Reuters suggests that the problems go much deeper.

“Five outside technology experts interviewed by Reuters, however, say they believe flaws in system architecture, not traffic alone, contributed to the problems.

“For instance, when a user tries to create an account on HealthCare.gov, which serves insurance exchanges in 36 states, it prompts the computer to load an unusually large amount of files and software, overwhelming the browser, experts said.”

The system, designed by a Canadian software company CGI Group Inc. “causes 92 separate files, plug-ins and other mammoth swarms of data to stream between the user’s computer and the servers powering the government website.” This includes 56 Javascript files. The effect, according to the IT professionals, was as if the system was committing a denial of service hacking attack against itself.

Furthermore there seems to be a problem with a security question that comes from a different server.

“Many users experienced problems involving security questions they had to answer in order to create an account on HealthCare.gov. No questions appeared in the boxes, or an error message said they were using the same answers for different questions when they were not.”

Leaving aside why the Obama administration outsourced one of the biggest IT contracts the government has instituted to a foreign company, one has to wonder why the folks at CGI Group were thinking. Clearly the system was badly designed and badly coded since it doesn’t seem to work in the real world. If there was a systems test at all, which would have involved stressing it in real world conditions, it was flawed since it didn’t alert the companies to the bugs in their system.

The exchange system has been taken offline for the weekend for some fixes. But, by all accounts, it looks like it should be ripped out entirely and handed over to another company, an American one, that has people who know how to code.

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