BLM.gov back online

The Bureau of Land Management's main Web site is back online, but some secondary sites remain down.

All BLM sites had been offline since April 8. Agency officials took the sites down after Interior’s inspector general issued a report warning that the agency’s information technology systems are vulnerable to cyberthreats.

After the shutdown, BLM officials established an Incident Command Center to strengthen the agency's computer systems defenses and restore Internet access. The ICC will continue mending a number of state-specific sites still offline. No deadline has been set.

“We don't have a timeline [but] we're working expeditiously to restore them," said Celia Boddington, a BLM spokeswoman. "Until that point, we are going to be posting critical information on BLM.gov to ensure public outreach. That is a priority for us."

The shutdown was the latest in a long-running dispute over the security of Indian trust fund information.

Investigators found that poor network security and weak access controls "could have easily compromised the confidentiality, integrity and availability of the identified Indian Trust data residing on such systems."

Boddington declined to discuss specific changes to BLM's IT systems for security reasons, but said external experts confirmed the systems are safe. In an internal memo to BLM employees last month, Kathleen Clarke, the agency's director, said National Information Resource Management Center staff would be involved in efforts to harden security and move BLM Web sites "into a better-protected environment."

The BLM.gov site came back online on May 27. "I want to thank our customers for their patience," Boddington said. "We're committed to providing them with the information that that they need."

A class-action lawsuit filed almost nine years ago criticizes Interior's oversight of Indian trust funds. Plaintiffs have accused department officials of doing a poor job of protecting data from hackers.

In 2001, U.S. District Judge Royce Lamberth ordered Interior officials to disable Internet connections on all computers that could be used to access trust fund data. He ordered two subsequent shutdowns, although Internet access has returned to the department following a federal appeals court ruling that blocked Lamberth’s latest order.

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