The Washington Post reported on Friday night at 8:05 that the federal court system had been hit with a denial-of-service attack Friday afternoon that brought several government Web sites to a halt. PACER, the site for accessing the electronic court filing database, as well as uscourts.gov and various other federal court websites around the country, were affected by the hack according to federal officials.
The U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Florida was unavailable for about four hours.
PACER administrators posted a service advisory warning that some visitors might have trouble accessing the service.
Lawyers and others, who could not meet filing deadlines or retrieve records, took to Twitter to complain. A group calling itself The European Cyber Army claimed it was responsible on Twitter.
The blog Politico reported on the alleged cyberattack, relaying that an aide with the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts described the incident only as a denial-of-service attack, and that the court system, which manages its own cybersecurity, is still investigating the exact nature of the incident and who is responsible.
Thanks to Sean Harrington, who got this to me on Friday night and continued to update me.
By Saturday, Ars Technica reported (as did The Wall Street Journal - sub. req.) that it was a technical glitch, not a cyberattack, that brought the sites down. The source for the story was an unnamed spokesperson for the FBI.
On Sunday, Inside Cybersecurity (sub. req.) reported that, "The FBI has withdrawn its categorical denial that the U.S. court system's online outage on Friday was caused by a cyber attack, saying the possibility of malicious activity remains under investigation."
"We are reassessing our initial position, as the facts are being reviewed," FBI spokeswoman Jacqueline Maguire told Inside Cybersecurity Saturday night. "The FBI is prepared to assist the U.S. federal courts if necessary."
In the absence of further concrete details, whatever happened is clear as mud.
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