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Census test in Providence didn’t count on Russian hackers, report finds

An envelope containing a 2018 census letter mailed to a U.S. resident as part of the nation’s only test run of the 2020 Census.AP Photo/Michelle R. Smith, File

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Happy Thursday and welcome to Rhode Map, your daily guide to everything happening in the Ocean State. I’m Edward Fitzpatrick and I suspect that gnomes carved those tree stumps into mushroom shapes on Blackstone Boulevard. Follow me on Twitter @FitzProv or send tips to Edward.Fitzpatrick@Globe.com.

PROGRAMMING NOTE: Dan McGowan is sitting by a pool thinking of new Rhode Map ideas this week. He’ll be back on Monday.


The nation’s only full test for U.S. census technology took place right here in Providence County last year, and guess what? That website was hacked from IP addresses in Russia during the testing, according to a scathing Dec. 4 special report by Reuters.

The article begins by noting that in 2016 the U.S. Census Bureau had to decide whether to build an in-house system to digitize the once-a-decade population count -- or to go outside and buy one from a private contractor. The bureau picked Pegasystems Inc. “Three years later, the project faces serious reliability and security problems,” Reuters reported. “And its projected cost has doubled to $167 million.”

The incident did not result in system damage or stolen data. But along with another incident, it “raised alarms among census security staff about the ability of the bureau and its outside security contractor, T-Rex Solutions, to defend the system against more sophisticated cyberattacks,” Reuters reported.

John M. Marion, executive director of Common Cause Rhode Island, said the 2020 census will be the first census conducted primarily online. So, he said, “It’s worrying that watchdogs inside and outside of government have flagged the census technology as being not fully prepared for potential threats.”


But Marion, a member of the Rhode Island Complete Count Committee, said it’s fortunate that the problems are coming to light before the count begins. “Hopefully, the spotlight shown by the Reuters reporting will prompt the Census Bureau to redouble its efforts,” he said.

Take a look at the full Reuters piece here.


Rhode Map wants to hear from you. If you’ve got a scoop or a link to an interesting news story in Rhode Island, e-mail us at RInews@globe.com.

• The Globe was first to report that Rhode Island Hospital and Hasbro Children’s Hospital President Margaret M. Van Bree will leave those posts at the end of this year. The news came just hours after Lifespan, the state’s biggest hospital group and largest private employer, reported a significant operating loss and announced that it is offering early retirement packages to some employees.

Amanda Milkovits reports that 34 Woonsocket residents are getting citations this week for registering their vehicles out of state. Woonsocket Mayor Lisa Baldelli-Hunt and Police Chief Thomas F. Oates III announced the latest sweep in the city’s ongoing crackdown on residents with out-of-state plates.

• When he was a University of Rhode Island student, Alfred J. Verrecchia landed an internship that launched his career at Hasbro. Now, he and his wife are giving $15 million to URI’s College of Business in part to support internships for future URI students. It ties for the second largest single gift in URI history.


• The Globe’s Jon Chesto compares the proposal to woo the soon-to-be WooSox to Worcester with plans, unveiled earlier this week, that would result in a professional soccer stadium and other development in downtown Pawtucket. “Think of it as the Tale of Two Stadiums.”

• The Globe’s James Pindell has an interesting story about Andrew Yang, the Democratic presidential candidate and Brown University graduate who’s on track to meet the fund-raising and polling metrics to make the December presidential debate.


Each day, Rhode Map offers a cheat sheet breaking down what’s happening in Rhode Island. Have an idea? E-mail us at RInews@globe.com.

Gina M. Raimondo and Providence Mayor Jorge O. Elorza are expected to attend a ribbon-cutting at 10 a.m. for Gotham Greens at 555 Harris Ave. in Providence. Gotham Greens, which grows leafy greens and herbs, converted the site of a former General Electric lighting factory into a 100,000-square-foot, high-tech greenhouse along Providence’s Woonasquatucket River. Public tours will start this spring.

• The Social Enterprise Greenhouse will host its 2019 Health & Wellness Accelerator Graduation and Pitch Night from 6 to 8 p.m. at the SEB Hub, 10 Davol Square, Suite 100, Providence. Twelve entrepreneurs will be pitching their new social ventures to the public.


• At 11:30 a.m., state Department of Transportation Director Peter Alviti Jr. will mark the early completion of the Oxford Street Bridge project in Providence. The bridge deck was replaced this summer using accelerated bridge construction methods, and the project is done six months ahead of schedule.

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Thanks for reading. Send comments and suggestions to Edward.Fitzpatrick@Globe.com, or follow me on Twitter @FitzProv. See you tomorrow.

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