How Hackers Might Gain Access to the 2020 Census Data

The Census, unsurprisingly, has likely been hacked before

Census hacking
There's a fear among experts that the Census could be hacked. (Getty)
By Ariel Scotti / July 3, 2019 12:38 pm

The dawn of technology has made life easier for humanity in a number of ways, one of which is data-collection and storage. But this ever-growing frontier, like any other, has people in place who seek to undermine the system and gain access to information illegally for their own benefit — whether it be financial or otherwise.

That’s why when the United States government announced that the Census Bureau would allow citizens to answer questions online and that it had purchased cloud space to house all of those responses from Amazon Web Services, many, like The New York Times, went immediately to the danger of hacking.

The Census has likely been hacked before, and it wasn’t until last year that the wide open door to citizen data was noticed. It’s since been sealed, so the Bureau claims, but the damage done to the trust of the American people remains.

That poses its own danger when “public confidence plummets and people decide this is not going to be a good census so we’re not going to respond,” Terri Ann Lowenthal, a former congressional staff member and longtime census expert told the Times. “At that point we could be headed toward a failed census.”

The truth is that the two major questions posed to the Census in the aftermath of the system-wide technology overhaul it experienced to gear up for 2020 — Does it work and is it secure? —  have not been answered, according to the Times. The Census has done little to dissuade these fears, somehow completing security tests in one week that were supposed to take eight weeks. A “critical dress rehearsal” for this massive upcoming data collection that was supposed to be run through three American communities was also only conducted in one, the Times discovered.

“If you wanted to provoke fears among the population as to how the census data could be used,” said Nathaniel Persily, a professor at Stanford Law School, “the American population is fertile ground right now for conspiracy theories and manipulation.”

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