Cyber Attack Attempts on Judiciary Top 24 Million, Congress Told

Feb. 27, 2020, 12:02 AM

Cyber attack attempts targeting the federal judiciary have risen sharply in recent years to more than 24 million in 2019, and some incidents have been tied to other nations, judiciary officials said in congressional testimony.

Cyber incursions are “an increasing problem,” but there’s no indication that any attempt to penetrate and disrupt court systems have been successful, District Judge John Lungstrum told a House appropriations subcommittee on Wednesday.

“That’s the good news,” said Lungstrum of Kansas, who was on Capitol Hill with the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts, which oversees the workings of the federal judiciary, to discuss its fiscal 2021 budget request.

He and courts’ office director James Duff said the information on hacking comes from U.S. law enforcement, so they said they were limited in what information they could convey publicly to lawmakers.

But they did say “nation states” were among those targeting court systems. They were not more specific but did note that estimated incursions jumped from about 9 million in 2016 to more than 24 million last fiscal year.

They said it’s not clear what incursions are after specifically, but that court systems house case information, confidential records, and other personal data. They also speculated that cyber attacks could simply be aimed at disrupting websites or other electronic systems that serve the U.S. government.

In response, Lungrstrum said the judiciary has bolstered firewalls and encryption, patched security in areas where incursions are taking place, and has increased awareness among staff.

One potential solution, he said, would be to increase salaries of information technology professionals to attract talent.

“As we look at our salary increases here, one of the big drivers is we’ve got to pay IT people more than what we once upon a time used to pay when the federal government was viewed as maybe a better bet to work for than the private sector,” Lungstrum said.

The judiciary’s overall budget request seeks a 4.4% annual increase in funding for the fiscal year beginning Oct. 1.

To contact the reporter on this story: Madison Alder in Washington at malder@bloomberglaw.com

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Jessie Kokrda Kamens at jkamens@bloomberglaw.com; John Crawley at jcrawley@bloomberglaw.com

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