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Was Pacer shutdown due to a cyberattack? Group claims responsibility

Posted Jan 27, 2014 8:19 AM CDT
By Debra Cassens Weiss

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Why did Pacer and several federal court websites shut down temporarily on Friday?

A group called European Cyber Army claimed responsibility in a tweet while media reports gave differing reasons for the shutdown, report the Washington Post blog the Switch and ZDNet.

“Government of #USA!” the Twitter message read. “We have taken the liberty of #Nuking your website http://USCourts.gov ! We are the #ECA #EuropeanCyberArmy.”

Politico had an early report on the issue. A spokesman for the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts told the publication the problem was due to a denial of service attack, which is caused when a website is inundated with traffic in an effort to shut it down. Politico also obtained a court clerk’s email message that said the problem appeared to be a “national cyberattack on the judiciary.”

Then an FBI spokesperson told Wall Street Journal (sub. req.) late Friday that the problem appeared to be caused by technical issues in federal court computers rather than a cyberattack.

On Saturday, however, the FBI said it was reassessing that analysis. Meanwhile, the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts was sticking to its assessment that the outage was the result of a malicious attack.

Charles Hall, a spokesman for the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts, told the Washington Times that court officials had no comment on any groups claiming responsibility on social media. The attack began at 3:22 p.m., he said. Pacer appeared to be working again at about 7 p.m., the article said.

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