Federal judge seeks to protect Indian trust account data by putting DOI offline again

[JURIST] A federal district court judge in Washington, DC has again ruled that the US Department of the Interior [official website] must disconnect computers from the Internet that have access to data related to trust accounts it administers for American Indians. Judge Royce C. Lamberth [official profile] said in the 205-page opinion [PDF text; order, PDF] that the department's computers were vulnerable to hackers because security there was "disorganized and broken." The Interior Department plans to appeal the decision. The order is the latest in a 1996 lawsuit on behalf of a half-million Indians who claim the United States has squandered $137 billion in royalties from land set aside for Indian use under the Dawes Act of 1887 [NA backgrounder]. Congress passed the American Indian Trust Reform Management Act [PDF text] in 1994, which required the department to account for all the money in the fund. Lamberth has previously ordered [PDF injunction] that the department's Internet connections be cut off, but his most recent order had been overturned [JURIST report] by a federal appeals court, which ruled that there was no evidence of actual tampering by hackers. Tuesday's New York Times has more.

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