Cybersecurity and the 2020 Census: Are We Prepared?

A U.S. Census Bureau employee uses a UNIVAC 1105 computer to tabulate data following the 1960 Census. Image: U.S. government via Wikimedia Commons.

Just Security readers may find of interest a letter released this week on behalf of leading cybersecurity experts that calls for the Census Bureau to share publicly its cybersecurity preparations for the 2020 Census, which will be the United States’s first electronic census.  In the new letter, which was coordinated by my colleagues and me at Georgetown Law’s Institute for Constitutional Advocacy and Protection, former White House, DHS, FBI, NSA, DOJ, ODNI, and State Department cyber and technology officials explain that “the American people deserve to understand the technical protocols and systems being utilized by the Census Bureau to ensure that the electronic collection and storage of information about millions of Americans will be handled as securely as possible.”  The letter goes on to express concerns that, despite repeated calls from Congress and the public, “the Bureau has not provided basic information such as whether two-factor authentication will be required for all access to the data obtained, whether relevant information will always be encrypted while in transit and also while at rest (and what specific encryption methods will be used), and whether other now-standard cybersecurity practices will be utilized.”  Signatories include J. Michael Danielformer Special Assistant to the President and Cybersecurity Coordinator at the National Security Council; Matthew G. Olsen, former Director of the National Counterterrorism Center and former General Counsel of the National Security Agency; and Paul Rosenzweig, former Deputy Assistant Secretary for Policy at the Department of Homeland Security.

With so much occurring so rapidly in the area of cybersecurity and cyber-threats, it seems important to focus attention on preparing for America’s first electronic census–and, in particular, on the cybersecurity measures that should be employed to protect information on millions of Americans.  This letter is intended to energize that critical focus.

 

About the Author(s)

Joshua Geltzer

Founding Executive Director of the Institute for Constitutional Advocacy and Protection and Visiting Professor of Law at Georgetown University Law Center. Former Senior Director for Counterterrorism at the National Security Council, former Deputy Legal Advisor to the National Security Council, and former Counsel to the Assistant Attorney General for National Security at the Department of Justice. Member of the editorial board of Just Security.