After the recent disclosure of widespread cybersecurity breaches of both private sector and government computer systems, federal courts are immediately adding new security procedures to protect highly sensitive confidential documents filed with the courts. The Judicial Conference of the United States requested that court units take immediate action to add new security precautions for intake procedures of Highly Sensitive Documents (HSDs) that may be of interest to malicious actors. Factors used to determine which documents may be considered an HSD include whether the case involves matters of national security, foreign sovereign interests, or cybersecurity; the extent of domestic or international interests; the involvement of public officials; intellectual property or trade secrets; or the reputational interests of the United States.
Upon completion of a review, comprised of the Court Services Branch of the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts and an ad hoc subcommittee, to assess how courts were identifying and managing HSDs, and after discussion with the Executive Committee of the Judicial Conference, the court hereby amends Standing Order 2021-2, to remove search warrants and accompanying documents from being treated as HSDs, unless they relate to high profile national security criminal investigations.
Standing Order 2021-6 amends and updates what the Court does and does not consider to be HSDs. Many pleadings currently filed under seal in CM/ECF do not merit the heightened protections addressed in this Standing Order. These changes add a new security precaution for intake procedures so that HSDs are protected, stored, and maintained offline in either paper form or in a standalone computer that is not connected to any network and does not have access to the internet.
As guidance evolves, the Court will provide updates and new resources to assist with mitigating potential compromises of court data and case filings.