US Interior Department sites remain offline

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US Interior Department sites remain offline

The US Department of the Interior is slowly getting back online after a federal judge last week ordered all its computers to be disconnected from the Internet.

At least one major Interior agency - the US Geological Survey - was back online today, while the National Interagency Fire Centre was expected be back online soon. The main site for the Interior Department should also be online again soon, said spokesman Mark Pfeifle, although he was unable to specify when.

The Interior Department and the agencies under its authority were completely shut off from the Internet last week, which meant Web sites were down and business communications via e-mail were shut off. Agencies not on the same internal network were unable to communicate.

The Interior Department hired security firm Predictive Systems in New York to secure its network. However following allegations that certain trust data had not been adequately protected, a security specialist, Alan Balaran, was appointed by the court to investigate. He asked Predictive Systems to try to hack into the Interior Department's IBM servers in Denver where, court documents said, the company was able to break into the agency's computers undetected. The judge then ruled that all Interior computers must be shut off from the Internet until they could be proved to be secure.

Balaran's report, and testimony from former Interior chief information officer Dominic Nessi, indicated there had been almost no protection of data.

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