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US Department of Justice investigates cyber breach of federal court filing system

WASHINGTON, July 28 (Reuters) – The U.S. Justice Department is investigating a cyber breach involving the Federal Court’s case management system, the department’s top national security attorney told lawmakers on Thursday.

Matt Olsen, head of the Justice Department’s National Security Division, hinted at the threat of cyberattacks by foreign nations as he briefed the US House Judiciary Committee on the investigation into a “effort to compromise public court records”.

Olsen made the remarks in response to questions from Rep. Jerrold Nadler of New York, the panel’s Democratic chair, who said the committee only learned in March of the “surprising scale and scope” of the breach.

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The US Courts Administrative Office said in January 2021 that it was adding new security procedures to protect confidential or sealed records following an apparent compromise of its electronic case management and filing system.

Federal justice at the time said vulnerabilities were identified as a result of the breach that risked compromising highly sensitive non-public documents stored with the courts.

Olsen said he couldn’t speak “directly to the nature of the ongoing investigation.” But he noted that his division focused on the risk of cyberattacks by foreign countries like China, Russia, Iran and North Korea.

“This is of course a significant concern for us given the nature of the information often held by the courts,” Olsen told lawmakers, adding that the department was working with the judiciary to investigate and settle the matter.

The Administrative Bureau, the administrative arm of the judiciary, had no immediate comment.

The judiciary has been working to modernize its electronic case management and filing system and related online portal known as PACER, which is used to access records, citing the risk of cyberattacks on the aging electronic system .

“We are vulnerable,” U.S. Circuit Judge Amy St. Eve said during a House committee hearing in May on the judiciary budget request.

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Reporting by Sarah N. Lynch and Nate Raymond Editing by Bernadette Baum

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