back to article US court system ditches electronic filing, goes paper-only for sensitive documents following SolarWinds hack

The US court system has banned the electronic submission of legal documents in sensitive cases out of concern that Russian hackers have compromised the filing system. In an extraordinary order handed down to all federal courts late last week – here's an example [PDF] – any documents that “contain information that is likely to …

  1. Version 1.0 Silver badge
    Unhappy

    A smart choice

    I've loved the internet ever since I first managed to get my 110 baud modem running, and then a BBS setup when we got 1200 baud! But these days the internet is just like sex through a hole in the toilet wall. It feels good but you have no idea what you are interacting with, machines, fakers, spammers, criminals, and occasionally your friends.

    We need to upgrade to a secure communications method that means that we know who we are talking to (or having fun with). I like the idea of freedom of speech but we need to make human happiness (outside the toilet) and trust far more important. Free Speech is good, but I should not be able to say that I'm going to kill everyone who down votes this post. If I said that then it would be a terrible thing to say but it's just free speech - the Internet makes it free to be an idiot.

    We need to change our world.

    1. beast666

      Re: A smart choice

      No. You need to get a grip.

  2. Arthur Daily

    Mmmm People doing data entry, rekeying in things, and printout distribution, secretaries printing the mornings inbox, and perhaps newspaper clippings - just like the early 80's. What is old is new again. Yet there are so many mis-configured plain old FTS servers running unencrypted...

    Pretty sure the S in FISA stands for secret and well, well above that too. As no MS product has true real world secret rating, FISA stayed offline, while courts, nuclear reactors and critical infrastructure had to cut costs by being 'agile'.

    1. ST Silver badge
      Facepalm

      > Pretty sure the S in FISA stands for secret and well [ ... ]

      No. It doesn't stand for secret. It stands for Surveillance. Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978.

      1. A.P. Veening Silver badge

        Whoosh!!!

  3. MajDom

    Looking forward to the simple James Bond movies, that are all about microfilm smuggling. And Martinis.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Not to mention the cars, gadgets and girls...

  4. Winkypop Silver badge
    Big Brother

    Court lobby searches

    “Any weapons, cameras or carbon paper Sir?”

  5. Zero Sum

    Russian guard service reverts to typewriters after NSA leaks

    Only seven years after the FSO reverted to typewriters for much the same reason:

    https://www.theguardian.com/world/2013/jul/11/russia-reverts-paper-nsa-leaks

    Also – have they considered that most printers keep copies of documents on their hard drives? Isn't that a potential vulnerability if they print anything out?

    1. This post has been deleted by its author

      1. Phil O'Sophical Silver badge
        Boffin

        Re: Russian guard service reverts to typewriters after NSA leaks

        The cache of printers is limited and can be deleted or overwritten.

        Unless they've been hacked...

        How many offices actually bother to set up the passwords on networked printers (mine does, but we have a good sysadmin)? They could be sending a copy of everything you print to anywhere.

        1. Blackjack Silver badge

          Re: Russian guard service reverts to typewriters after NSA leaks

          Even if they have been hacked that doesn't miraculous add more storage space for the printer, they can only steal whatever is on the cache and that's it. Of course if the hack is not discovered for a long time they can steal anything you ever print.

          But good luck forcing people to go back to using typewriters.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Russian guard service reverts to typewriters after NSA leaks

            they can only steal whatever is on the cache and that's it.

            Modern printers have multi-GB hard disks.

            But good luck forcing people to go back to using typewriters.

            Who is suggesting that?

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      This

      Paper works, use it for voting too.

      There's a reason paper receipts on ballots are there, and a reason Texas and South Carolina should not be allowed to use paperless voting machines.

      See Georgia voting machines? Those Dominion ones? They had paper ballot receipts, they counted the paper ballots and lo and behold the count matched. This is what ended the coup attempt, the lies could not be sustained in the face of those paper ballots.

      So you can be sure Georgia Republicans didn't slot in a little extra software on those voting machines.

      You cannot say the same for Texas or South Carolina with their paperless voting machines, indeed why on earth, when Federal funds are available to replace those machines with auditable ones are Republicans still running those paperless machines? The ones you cannot independently audit?

      Texas sued to try to block other states votes, if Texas Republicans would attempt to rig elections so blatantly, do you think they aren't running rigging software on their paperless machines?

      Paper works.

      It's verifiable by everyone, it's countable by everyone. Paper voting receipts need to be mandatory everywhere. Especially in States run by Republican Seditionists.

      @ Isn't that a potential vulnerability if they print anything out?

      *This* also, no system on a public network that doesn't need to be on a public network. Physical security for court devices like printers and LANs.

    3. Mike 16 Silver badge

      Re: Russian guard service reverts to typewriters after NSA leaks

      Not to be forgetting

      https://www.schneier.com/blog/archives/2015/10/soviet_spying_o.html

      about the hacked Selectric typewriters in U.S. Embassies.

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Surprised that no one mentioned hard drives in networked Xerox copiers.....

    .....so the potential for hackers who are already on the LAN extends a bit further than you might think....

    *

    -- Link: https://security.uci.edu/copier-security.html

    1. Retiredwatcher

      Trouble is

      I to loved my first connection to the wonderful new world of the internet.

      I reckoned it would go places from day one, however over the years I have seen the dream unravel.

      I cannot understand why you can be anonymous to connect. It allows all the creatures to come out ruin it for the masses and crawl back under their stones.

      People in the past like Martin Luther and Nelson Mandela did not hide their identities.

      The trust in the web is in doubt and I cannot see how we get it back - bring on the paper records.

      Maybe I should buy share in filling cabinets.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        The Internet -- and the difference between public figures and private citizens

        @Retiredwatcher

        Quote: "I cannot understand why you can be anonymous to connect. ... People in the past like Martin Luther and Nelson Mandela did not hide their identities."

        Let me explain.

        Once upon a time, my relationship with my bank was mediated by my cheque book, by visits to a branch, and by the receipt of a printed statement in the mail every month. In this long gone world, the only people who knew about my bank relationship were bank employees and me. This situation was very likely also true for Martin Luther King and Nelson Mandela.

        Consider today's world. Today I HAVE NO IDEA how much of my affairs (financial and other) is available in the wider world, and no idea who can see the details. Google and Facebook and Amazon probably know quite a lot about my affairs. Google and FB (notoriously) sell my "profile" to anyone who wants to buy the details. Then there are hackers. And finally, there are government institutions around the world who have built up details of my "social network" using email traffic, FB analysis, and who knows what other tools.

        You are quite right to say that public figures need to be identifiable by name, and to be responsible for their identity and their actions.

        BUT THE REST OF US, AS PRIVATE CITIZENS, ARE ENTITLED TO SOME MEASURE OF PRIVACY. And on the internet, that probably means that we need to use anonymity as a poor protection for our privacy.

        Signed: AC (obviously!)

        1. Eclectic Man Silver badge

          Re: The Internet -- and the difference between public figures and private citizens

          After the military coup in Myanmar (formerly Burma), I expect there a re a lot of people hoping the Internet will be turned back on, and they will be able to communicate anonymously with TROTW (The Rest Of The World).

          You only need to read the postings by the many 'Anonymous Coward's here to understand that some people would not post their thoughts here if they were identifiable.

          On the other hand, I do hope the US government realises that many of these Highly Sensitive Documents were probably stored on a server connected to the Internet and protected by SolarWinds before they were printed off for sending to the Courts.

        2. Version 1.0 Silver badge

          Re: The Internet -- and the difference between public figures and private citizens

          So how do you think religion would work if we were sitting on Zoom on Sunday watching a guy in a mask preaching about this unknown dude who got crucified almost two thousand year ago? Anonymous means that we don't know which of the three he's talking about.

      2. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

        Re: Trouble is

        I cannot understand why you can be anonymous to connect.

        Because a regime without anonymity is authoritarian and oppressive, and further concentrates power in the hands of the powerful?

        I would have though that would be obvious to anyone with a reasonable knowledge of history and human behavior.

        Honestly, the number of people who comment on these stories by expressing their desire for a parental state imposing penalties to save everyone from painful speech is really worrisome. Help us to submit and obey, O glorious leaders!

  7. Martin Gregorie Silver badge

    One thing puzzles me in your story

    Getting lawyers in sensitive cases to hand-deliver paper copies of sensitive documents to the Court makes perfect sense.

    BUT why should, as your story says, these sensitive documents then be hand-typed into a court computer at all. That simply makes no sense at all, since all it does is to make the electronic copy available to hackers, regardless of whether its online or not: never heard of USB memory sticks or SD cards in miscreant's pockets?

    The only proper place for a sensitive document that must not be accessed by unauthorised persons is locked in a fireproof safe. If somebody needs a copy of it, use a photocopier and verify that the copy is shredded as soon as it is no longer needed.

    1. Alumoi Silver badge

      Re: One thing puzzles me in your story

      You forgot in the bottom of a locked filing cabinet stuck in a disused lavatory with a sign on the door saying ‘Beware of the Leopard”

  8. Ima Ballsy
    Holmes

    In the Know

    Having worked on a Local version to our state as provided by the COurt Systems:

    System is written in Perl 5.x , System uses some home brew DB access modules as well as a Somewhat of a Framework all written back in the mid to late 1990's, all written in, you guessed it, Perl. The encryption routine was a C module that was easily hackable.

    The database is Informix , I converted ours to Postgres, and YES the UI and other functions are clunky at best, but Attorneys love it.

    1. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

      Re: In the Know

      Do "[a]ttorneys love it"? This is not at all representative, but I think every time I've seen a lawyer offer an opinion about PACER, it's been negative. Like, say, this one.

      But maybe most are pretty much happy with it. And electronic filing has to be really bad to not be at least a little better than paper filing.

      (Incidentally, if anyone wants a history of the rise of filing technology in general in the modern era, I can recommend Yates, Control through Communication. Seriously, it's pretty interesting stuff. Chapbooks to pigeonholes to flat filing to vertical filing, the introduction of the typewriter, and so on. Then of course Hollerith comes along with an idea for Jacquard's punched cards...)

      1. Ima Ballsy
        Coat

        Re: In the Know

        Mainly because all they had before here, was a manual system. They MAINLY love it because it looks and feels like the CMECF system.

        I personally found it antiquated and a push by me was meet with extreme resistance when i suggested

        modernizing it

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Hardly innovating

    At my company, the most sensitive stuff never enters an electronic system of any kind. We hardly have any stuff so delicate that it merits this level of care, but whatever we do have is all face to face, away from phones and computers (and cars, these days).

  10. This post has been deleted by its author

  11. Claptrap314 Silver badge

    Because only foreign actors...

    would care to intercept court documents.

    I anticipate a major drop in successful prosecutions of organized crime in the not to distant future.

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