Interior faces disconnection

Department of Interior

The Interior Department must complete a two-step recertification process within the next 15 days or remove many of its computers from the Internet.

In the latest development in the seven-year legal dispute regarding Interior's handling of the Indian Trust Fund, U.S. District Judge Royce Lamberth issued a preliminary injunction late Monday that calls for court approval before connecting the department's computer systems to the Internet.

The injunction lists two areas in which Interior systems may be exempt from a shutdown:

* Systems deemed essential for fighting fires or other threats to life or property.

* Systems without access to data about Indian trusts, or are secure from Internet access by unauthorized users.

The first point must be demonstrated to the court within 10 days, and the latter within 15 days.

Lamberth also took on the responsibility of determining if the relevant Interior systems are secure. Previously, the judge said he would rely on a court-appointed special master to make the determination.

The judge's injunction also requires the Interior Department to file within 30 days a proposed method of approving individual reconnections of disconnected computer systems, and of determining whether reconnected computers should remain so. The proposal must include adequate evidence that the systems are secure against Internet break-ins.

Internet-connected computers that have access to Indian trust data and are not proven secure from "access by unauthorized persons" present "irreparable injury to plaintiffs," Lamberth wrote in a 35-page opinion.

Interior officials said they are reviewing the injunction, and expect full compliance.

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