Breach, Content

U.S. Justice Department Investigating Court Records System Breach; Highly Sensitive Documents Compromised

The US Capitol Building at dusk.

The U.S. Department of Justice is investigating a cyber breach on the federal court records system.

Addressing the U.S. House Judiciary Committee on July 28, Matt Olsen, head of the Justice Department's National Security Division, informed the committee about the investigation into an "effort to compromise public judicial dockets,” as reported by Reuters.

“Startling Breadth and Scope”

Olsen’s remarks came in response to questions from U.S. Rep. Jerrold Nadler, D-New York, the panel's chairman. Olson said the committee had only in March learned of the "startling breadth and scope" of the breach.

However, Olsen said he could not speak “directly to the nature of the ongoing investigation,” and that the Justice Department is focused on the risk of cyberattacks by nations like China, Russia, North Korea and Iran.

"This is of course a significant concern for us given the nature of the information that is often held by the courts," Olsen told lawmakers. He added the Justice Department was working with the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts to investigate and address the matter.

Highly Sensitive Documents Compromised

U.S. Courts in January 2021 said it was adding new security procedures to protect confidential or sealed records following an apparent compromise of its electronic case management and filing system. U.S. Courts reported that the cyber breach risked compromising highly sensitive non-public documents stored with the courts.

Also in January, U.S. Courts sent letters to Congress in urging lawmakers to defer action on pending bills affecting its electronic records management system until a “meaningful two-way dialogue” between the two branches of government can take place to resolve important concerns, according to a U.S. Courts statement.

The federal judiciary reportedly has been modernizing its electronic case management and filing system and the related online portal known as PACER, an “aging” system used to access court records.

Jim Masters

Jim Masters is Managing Editor of MSSP Alert, and holds a B.A. degree in Journalism from Northern Illinois University. His career has spanned governmental and investigative reporting for daily newspapers in the Northwest Indiana Region and 16 years in a global internal communications role for a Fortune 500 professional services company. Additionally, he is co-owner of the Lake County Corn Dogs minor league baseball franchise, located in Crown Point, Indiana. In his spare time, he enjoys writing and recording his own music, oil painting, biking, volleyball, golf and cheering on the Corn Dogs.