As United States citizens, we face an interesting process every ten years. And that is, the Census. It is not only used to determine what the approximate population count here in the United States, but the results are also used for redrawing political district lines and it can even have tax consequences as well. The Census is nothing new, in fact, it is mandated under Article I, Section 2 of the United States Constitution.
The last Census was taken in 2010, and for the first time, the numbers revealed that there were more than 300+ million Americans living in residence here in the United States. The actual count was 308,745,538 people. Although it is still quite some time away, the next Census will occur at some point in time in the year of 2020.
But here, is the key difference from this one versus the ones in the past: This will be the first digital bases Census, and already the fear of Cyber attacks is already starting to loom. Just recently, Kevin Smith, the Census Bureau’s chief information officer held a quarterly meeting in which he explained how this office will work closely with the Department of Homeland Security in order to not only fortify the lines of defense, but to also quell public fears and concerns as well.
The agency says that it plans to implement high levels of Encryption in which to protect respondent data. But the degree to which this Encryption will be used and how it will be implemented still remains a deep mystery, as well as how it plans to implement other safeguards as well.
These fears and concerns are being strongly resonated by members of the House Oversight Committee, primarily being fueled once again, by Russian interference, like what happened in the 2016 Presidential Elections.
Although the members of this committee have given some degree of praise that the fears of a large scale Cyber attack occurring are being addresses, they want to see a much more transparent process so that even the American public will be kept informed. There are also other incidents that have occurred in the past which is putting the Census Bureau under the microscope:
*The Russians are continually trolling through the social media profiles of American citizens, and in fact, a state database that contained the records of over 500,000 voters was hacked into as well;
*The massive hack of federal employee records from the Office of Personnel Management in 2015, which has been linked to the Chinese government.
So just what exactly has the Census Bureau in mind for protecting our private information and data that we will be submitting to them in 2020?
They have mentioned the following:
*They will use Encryption at all levels:
This includes the Census website, where people will be asked to enter data in 2020, as well as the devices used by Census workers who go out on foot to gather information.
*They are making sure that the American Public does not fall victim to Phishing based schemes and attacks:
The Census bureau has purchased “many” domain names that Cyber attackers could use to impersonate the census website and trick people into giving away personal information. The bureau is also hunting down “rogue websites” that may exist as well.
Also, Census Bureau officials are closely monitoring the Census website for irregular activity or anomalies that could signal an intrusion, such as an unusually high amount of information/data that is going out or coming in.
*Private Cyber security firms and other government agencies (primarily the FBI) are watching and helping out as well:
The Census bureau is also working with telecommunications companies to stave off malicious activities such as Denial-of-Service attacks, which can disable a website by flooding it with fake traffic. The results: “Nothing major was discovered . . . no data was able to be taken.” (SOURCE: https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/powerpost/paloma/the-cybersecurity-202/2018/08/06/the-cybersecurity-202-the-2020-census-could-be-a-prime-target-for-hackers/5b670ced1b326b0207955f1a/?utm_term=.44eea3ea9d55)
But despite these efforts, as mentioned earlier, the Census Bureau is still being heavily criticized by other members of Congress, once again from the House Oversight Committee. Their beef? The Census Bureau is simply not doing enough to reveal the details of its Cyber security plans, as to what has been implemented thus far, and how much further they have to go.
My thoughts? Well, I wouldn’t even know where to start, really. Given just how massive and bureaucratic the Census Bureau can be, it really befuddles me even where to begin. Yes, the Census Bureau should be transparent in what it does, but probably in the end, it is best if it does not reveal too much either.
But as for you and me, who will be entering our personal information and data, just follow the basic Security practices. For instance, make sure that you are at an “HTTPS” website; it looks authentic enough to the best of your knowledge; and always keep checking your online accounts and your credit reports for any types or kinds of fraudulent activity. Remember, Identity Theft just does not happen immediately, it may not even be years until you realize that you have become a victim.
As for the Census Bureau: PEN TEST YOUR SYSTEMS!!! THAT IS THE ONLY WAY TO KNOW FOR SURE IF YOUR SECURITY MEASURES ARE ACTUALLY WORKING!!!