US Court system demands massive changes to court documents after SolarWinds hack

Multiple senators have demanded a hearing on what court officials know about the hackers’ access to sensitive filings. The effects could make accessing documents harder for lawyers.

Supreme court

Image: iStock/Bill Chizek

The House Homeland Security Committee held its first hearings this week on the devastating SolarWinds attack that gave Russian hackers months-long access to critical US government departments. But Senators are now demanding more information about the attacker’s infiltration of the US court system, which has already been forced to make changes in how documents are filed as a result of the attack.

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Last month, director of the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts James Duff sent a letter addressed to “All United States Judges” that admitted the Case Management/Electronic Case Filing system, which holds some of the most sensitive documents held by the government, had been breached. He said the hack risked “compromising highly sensitive non-public documents stored on CM/ECF, particularly sealed filings.”

“Certain sealed filings in CM/ECF, however, contain sensitive non-public information that, if obtained without authorization and improperly released, could cause harm to the United States, the Federal Judiciary, litigants, and others. Your immediate action is needed to mitigate this apparent compromise and reduce the risk of future compromises of confidential court filings,” Duff wrote, asking all courts to “issue a standing or general order or adopt some other equivalent procedure requiring that highly sensitive documents (HSDs) will be accepted for filing only in paper form or via a secure electronic device.”

“Highly sensitive documents should be stored in a secure paper filing system or a secure standalone computer system that is not connected to any network, particularly the internet. The AO will provide courts with model language for a standing or…