ROME — Hundreds of thousands of Italians raced to apply for a 600-euro coronavirus bonus Wednesday, crashing the website for Italian social security (INPS).
The Italian government has offered 600 euros of “emergency income” to self-employed workers with an annual income below €35,000, which was to become available Wednesday by filing an application on the nation’s social security website. A rumor went viral on social media, however, that the funds would be distributed on a first-come, first-served basis, and the concentrated volume of traffic overwhelmed the system.
Between the hours of 1:00am and 8:30am, over 300,000 applications were successfully filed, but then new requests began appearing at a rate of 300 per second, flooding the system.
Before the site went offline, however, many people attempting to apply for the bonus were able to see the applications of other users, which included personal data.
Not long after, the INPS office shut the site down and those attempting to access it were shown the following message:
“In order to provide a better and more effective channeling of service requests, the site is temporarily unavailable. We guarantee that all claimants will be able to apply for benefits.”
The president of INPS, Pasquale Tridico, told Italian media that the system malfunction was due to “violent hacker attacks” that took place not only on Wednesday but also on preceding days, a claim that was refuted by cyber security experts.
On Thursday, INPS announced that people wanting to access its service would be able to do so according to a new schedule divided according to the type of applicant to avoid over-congesting the site.
Citizens requesting the €600 bonus can begin accessing the site as of 4:00pm Thursday.