Courts must also be prepared for cyberattacks on court systems, such as denial of service and ransomware attacks on court case management systems, websites, and other critical information technology infrastructure. SJI supports projects that assist courts in preparing for, and responding to, these attacks, and share lessons-learned to courts across the United States.
Digital Disinformation and Threats to State Courts
Disinformation efforts targeting state courts, left unchecked, are likely to erode public trust and confidence in our system of justice. The Conference of Chief Justices (CCJ) and the Conference of State Court Administrators (COSCA) and the National Center for State Courts (NCSC) partnered with the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) to provide education on these threats during conferences. CCJ/COSCA, the NCSC, CSIS, and the American Bar Association (ABA) conducted a series of virtual workshops with small teams from state court systems.
The partners worked with content subject matter experts to adapt the material to a distance learning model and developed a “playbook” that would allow for the further dissemination of lessons learned. The playbook documents recommended strategies for all courts, and is modeled on the playbooks developed by Harvard University’s Belfer Center in its series Defending Digital Democracy. Concurrent with conducting the workshops and developing the playbook, NCSC assembled an online resource center that houses cybersecurity and digital disinformation material for court leaders, including key takeaways from the virtual workshops; messaging research and guidance conducted by NCSC in 2019; and tips for spotting and reporting disinformation efforts.
Cybersecurity in the Courts
The National Center for State Courts (NCSC) is conducting an in-depth analysis at the state of cybersecurity in the state courts to further assess and map out readiness. NCSC has created a focus group of subject matter experts to prioritize cybersecurity needs and assessments. Further, NCSC will identify a cross section of courts by size and case volume for in-depth cybersecurity assessments. At least three sites will be assessed, using a combination of additional survey instruments, on-site assessment, and interviews. The results of the analysis will be used to provide updated reports and guidance to state courts and other key stakeholders. One such report, Actional Cybersecurity for Courts, has been developed and published to address courts with limited technology staff and there was a request for guidance considering cybersecurity incidents have increased during the pandemic.