2. The upcoming census will make history.
Largely because it will be the first one conducted primarily online with respondents encouraged to submit their answers over the internet. What could possibly go wrong?
For starters, everything. Back in 2017, the GAO included the census in its list of the highest-risk government projects since due to cyber security and other issues. Despite some progress. Since then, the Commerce Department says there’s been “partial” progress” but also flagged areas of concern, specifically when it came to the management and oversight of the Census’s IT systems as well as the ability to deal with cyber security weaknesses “in a timely manner and ensure that risks are at an acceptable level before systems are deployed.”
Progress is in the eye of the beholder. Last December, the GAO said the Census Bureau still had 191 unfixed cyber security problems that it characterized as “high” or “very high” risk. What’s more, it said that 26% were 60 days or more past their planned fix date. Following the caucus fiasco in Iowa in early February, there’s extra urgency to make sure sufficient tech and security testing gets done before the census gets underway.
What they’re saying: This may be one of the rare political questions that unites Democrats and Republicans nowadays. Here’s Delaware Democrat John Sarbanes during a recent appearance by Census Bureau officials before the House Oversight and Reform Committee: “If ever there was a juicy target for those who want to hack in and sow discord and all the rest of it, it would be our 10-year census where we are putting it online like never before.” Meanwhile, Rep. Mark Meadows (R-N.C.), who also sits on the committee, weighed in by adding that the census website was more “complex” than the app used in Iowa and therefore has “a lot more chances for cyber intrusions.”
Learn More: The Looming Crisis: Government Agencies and Cyber Security
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