China and North Korea are among foreign powers suspected in a cyber security breach involving the US federal courts.
Representative Jerrold Nadler, chair of the House of Representatives judiciary committee, said that “three hostile foreign actors” had attacked the courts’ document filing system.
Matt Olsen, head of the Department of Justice’s National Security Division, did not specify who was behind the attack, but noted that his division was focused on the risk of cyber attacks by foreign nations like China and North Korea, as well as Iran and Russia.
Nadler said the committee learned only in March of the “startling breadth and scope” of the breach.
Olsen said the department was working closely with the federal judiciary around the country to address the issue.
“While I can’t speak directly to the nature of the ongoing investigation of the type of threats that you’ve mentioned regarding the effort to compromise public judicial dockets, this is of course a significant concern for us given the nature of the information that’s often held by the courts,” Olsen said.
The US federal judiciary has been working to modernise its electronic case management and filing system and the related online portal known as PACER, which is used to access records, citing the risk of cyber attacks on the ageing electronic system.
“We are vulnerable,” Judge Amy St Eve testified at a House committee hearing in May on the judiciary’s budget request.
- Reuters, with additional editing by George Russell