U.S. Census Data Hit By Hackers, Report Reveals

(PresidentialWire.com)- Last year, computer servers at the U.S. Census Bureau were exploited during a cybersecurity attack. However, a watchdog report released this week said the attack didn’t involve 2020 census count at all.

The watchdog report found that the hackers had tried to access the census system, but were unsuccessful at doing so. The attack was relegated to the remote access servers at the bureau, and it happened in January of 2020.

The Office of Inspector General this week said the Census Bureau had various opportunities to limit the vulnerabilities it had to cyberattacks, but never did anything about it. In addition, the bureau didn’t end up discovering the attack, nor reporting it once it did discover it, in a timely manner.

The watchdog report also found the bureau didn’t keep system logs that were sufficient, which ended up hindering the investigation into the incident. The bureau also used an operating system on its servers that the supplying vendor didn’t support anymore.

The report said, luckily, the firewalls on the bureau’s servers prevent the hackers from continuing to access the system through what’s known as a backdoor entry. Still, unauthorized changes were made to the system. That included the hackers creating new user accounts that they hoped they could use to continually access the system.

Ron Jarmin, the director of the Census Bureau, issued a written response to the report. He said none of the 2020 census count systems were compromised in the attack, and the overall count that happens once every 10 years wasn’t affected in any way.

He wrote:

“Furthermore, no systems or data maintained and managed by the Census Bureau on behalf of the public were compromised, manipulated or lost.”

The 2020 Census is used to determine the number of congressional seats that every state gets, and where the breakdown of various districts are. Depending on the results of the data, legislative and congressional districts can be re-drawn.

In addition, the once-a-decade census count helps determine where $1.5 trillion in federal funding is distributed every year.

On Wednesday, the Census Bureau also released the measurements it uses to show how people were ultimately counted. It detailed whether administrative records or other statistical techniques were implemented to fill any gaps for where households never responded to the questionnaire sent out as part of the 2020 census.

In some cases, census takers only were able to get an accurate count of the total number of people who lived in a particular home. They weren’t able to get more detailed information such as sex, race, age or the relationship status of those who lived in the household.

What the bureau did say in a statement is the measurements they took ended up reflecting what they expected in a “normally distributed population.” The statement further read:

“Some counties and tracts are higher on some metrics and some are lower on other metrics, but no signs point to anything unexpected in the results.”