Court may bare reports on Interior IT problems

The public may get a look at sanitized reports about the Interior Department's IT security problems, as a result of an order by a federal judge overseeing lengthy litigation over American Indian trust funds.

Similar contractor reports on Interior's IT security problems, unsealed by court order in December 2001, painted a bleak picture of vulnerable systems (Click for GCN story).

Judge Royce C. Lamberth of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia has ordered a court official to release redacted versions of reports on Interior IT prepared by contractors the court hired to detect security flaws.

In a Jan. 21 order, Lamberth directed Interior to file the sanitized reports in the public record of Cobell v. Norton within 11 days, so the reports would become available Feb. 2. But the federal government might file motions or other legal documents in the case that could convince Lamberth to relent.

The contractors work for the court's special master, an official who reports to Lamberth on the progress of Interior's efforts to make its systems secure so the court can clear them for reconnection to the Internet. Lamberth ordered Interior to disconnect almost all of its systems from the Internet in December 2001 because court contractors found that they could easily hack into the American Indian trust accounts.

Over the past year, Interior officials have progressively reconnected most Interior systems to the Internet as they convinced Lamberth and the special master that new security measures adequately protect the American Indian trust databases (Click for GCN coverage). The Bureau of Indian Affairs Web site and the bureau's mail servers still are disconnected from the Internet as a result of Lamberth's 2001 order.

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