back to article America's 2020 Census systems are a $15bn cyber-security tire fire

In 2020, America will run its once-a-decade national census, but the results may not reflect reality if hackers manage to have their way. On Tuesday, 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 …

  1. EJ
    Facepalm

    Thank God we have the administration in place who will know just how to tackle this crisis.

  2. fnusnu

    Didn't register here.

    Some dopey twit arrived at my door:

    "Have you registered?"

    Me: "Yes"

    DT: "OK, thanks"

  3. Dave 13
    Coat

    The Census Bureau was moved under the executive branch on day one of the Obama Administration. Looking for scapegoats, at least be honest about it.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      It has always been part of the executive branch, what Obama did was have the White House oversee it instead of the Commerce Department.

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    $15 BILLION

    It's just a mechanism to move tax payers cash to the 1%

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Linux

    America's 2020 Census systems

    Any idea as to the hardware/software platform the census will run on and who is contracted to supply it?

    "High tech doesn't equal secure"

    It does actually, just not in the case of YouKnowWho™

    "Dodaro said the US Government Accountability Office has identified 43 electronic systems that are to be used in the 2020 census."

    That would be 42 too many and if its 43 different providers then I predict they're heading for a train wreak.

  6. Chairman of the Bored
    Coat

    Census...

    Participation would be a lot higher is it would stick with its Constitutionally mandated requirement for a headcount permitting apportionment of seats in the House of Representatives.

    Their so-called 'American Community Survey' is so invasive It borders on a violation of the 4th amendment protection against unreasonable search and seizure. The survey is not voluntary. Not that we bother using our constitution any more, mind.

    Last go around had us detail: income, education, mortgage debt, marital status, race, religion. At least in my area canvassers were also recording lat/lon of residence entrances - at least until such practices became widely known.

    Yes, of course all this data is in Google's great dossier factory in the sky, but must my own Govt sell my privates to these bastards? Getting a little tired of the Ministry of Truth over here...

    ...mines the one with the deliberately incorrect survey results in the pocket

    1. Donn Bly

      Re: Census...

      The "2016 Business R&D and Innovation Survey", a response to which is also required by law, wasn't much better. That survey REQUIRED me to fill it out online, requiring me to create an account with security questions the answers to which the government has NO legitimate need. Even better, they also required the answers to the security questions to be different - so when two of them had the same answer it REQUIRED me to lie in order to comply with the law. In their mind your parents couldn't be born and married in the same city - go figure.....

      What use is a government survey that requires you lie, while at the same time requiring you to certify that the answers to the over-invasive questions wanting confidential and proprietary information are correct under penalty of perjury? At least they didn't require me to certify the answers to their stupid security questions.

      These systems are a goldmine for identity theft and go against all security best practices - yet the government still thinks that they "know best". @$!@#$% idiots.

  7. Christian Berger

    Seriously, that's something you probably could do via batch processing

    Just collect all the data in simple text files and process them overnight. No web interfaces or other complex shit required, just transfering some files, for example via encrypted e-mail or sftp.

    This shouldn't be complicated.

    1. Christian Berger

      Re: Seriously, that's something you probably could do via batch processing

      BTW, this famously was done on punchcards in the past. Essentially when you collect your data in text files on a central hardened computer, you can easily write programs to answer all of your statistical questions. Even if we are talking about Terabytes of data, the programs will run faster than you can write them.

      So statisticians can submit their programs to that air gapped computer and get back the results.

  8. John Smith 19 Gold badge
    Unhappy

    IIRC a divison of Lockheed Martin did the last one, and also processed the UK data

    Here's the thing.

    Have you ever wondered where the raw data comes from for long term federal level policy planning?

    Right here.

    How valuable is being able to skew that to whatever direction you want that planning (and it's associated funding) to go?

    Quite a lot.

    So I'd like to think it's all encrypted from the moment of collection to the end.

    BTW I think if everyone who completed it was automatically included in a lottery, with the prize dependent on the number who filled it in, the paper entries would have been more filled in.

  9. Christoph

    "Census data is used to determine congressional districts for voting by assessing how many people live in a certain area."

    And the Republicans are already using every possible means for voter suppression - I wonder how many ways they'll find to fiddle the results of this?

    Plus of course the more plebs they can keep off the books the fewer services they need to provide for them.

    The most obvious trick of course is making sure people are terrified that the Immigration enforcers will come after them, so anyone with even slightly dodgy status or with relatives who have dodgy status will stay well clear.

  10. David Roberts
    Paris Hilton

    I am sure they have a fully tested and resourced plan

    For a fall back to the previous manual system should the new electronic system fail to deliver.

    Nobody would be rash enough to consider the system too important to fail, would they?

  11. sitta_europea Silver badge

    If they just gave ten bucks to everyone who filled in and returned a form, wouldn't that be cheaper, and get damned near a 100% return?

    1. James 51

      There's stuff like that on line at the moment but you get people submitting multiple responses with multiple identities and just filling in any old guff as fast as possible so they can get to the next survey.

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    “Tire fire”

    Who says that?

    That stinks...

    I prefer “shit show”.

    It gives a more accurate visual and olfactory perspective of the situation...

    1. fobobob

      The one that really stuck with me was "dumpster fire clown-shoes shitshow" as referenced here:

      https://www.theregister.co.uk/2017/04/21/windows_hacked_nsa_shadow_brokers/

      As folks semi-routinely discard tires in dumpsters, it truly brings together the best of all possible worlds.

  13. Lion

    A much cheaper solution

    A good deal of the information they need on the citizenry is available from Facebook, Google and Amazon. There is also Equifax that not only gathers all financial info, but also SSN and employment salaries on all adults still breathing or dead. If these data mining entities refuse to send the data to census bureau, hack them. There is an agency for that.

    If all else fails, the dark web has all the info they need for a small fee.

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