America’s 2020 Census systems are a $15 billion cyber-security target

❝ Last week, the US Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee heard that the 2020 census will be the first to make extensive use of electronic equipment. For example, census workers will be given tablets to interview people who can’t be bothered filling in and sending back their forms.

Crucially, the US Census Bureau must patch vulnerabilities and install strong defenses in the computer systems it has set up to find and tabulate American citizens. With less than three years to go, a little more hustle in that department is needed, it seems…

❝ Previously, the census was recorded by mailing paper forms to every household in the country, and then dispatching data collectors to quiz citizens who don’t return their completed paperwork. Dodaro reported that “because the nation’s population is growing larger, more diverse, and more reluctant to participate,” response rates were at an historic low: just 63 per cent of households replied by mail in 2010 compared to 78 per cent in 1970.

As a result, the bureau had to recruit a load of temporary workers to manually obtain people’s details. After the 2010 census, someone had the bright idea to make the process more electronic, with workers using touchpads to input data…

❝ Eugene Dodaro, US Comptroller General, said the US Government Accountability Office has identified 43 electronic systems that are to be used in the 2020 census. None have undergone the required security certification – and one, the code used to tabulate all the data, won’t even finish development until March 2019 at the earliest. Any assessment and debugging of this software will be rather last minute…

❝ The situation is complicated further by staffing turmoil within the bureau. The head of the agency resigned shortly after Trump was elected, and Dodaro reported that as of October last year 60 per cent of positions at the bureau were unfilled…

Census data is used to determine congressional districts for voting by assessing how many people live in a certain area. It is also used to devise education and public sector funding so that the needs of the population can be met.

Dodaro said the GAO is keeping a close eye on the systems and will be conducting further security testing – if the code is ready to do so.

Since Trump represents only the ideologues who prefer no government over functional government, we’re in for a bumpy ride. Especially since Republicans have used every opportunity since the last census to gerrymander existing electoral districts. Trying to hang onto power by any means necessary is the internal slogan of reactionaries everywhere. Including the United States.

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