The Interior Department narrowly avoided have their Internet presence shutdown again last week. According to Wired News, "U.S. District Judge Royce Lamberth ordered the shutdown on Thursday, saying the department's computer security was so bad that hackers could easily break into the system and access and manipulate the Indians' account information." This isn't the first time Lamberth issued a shutdown order. The issue has to do with a decade long fight over alleged mismanagement of Indian Trust land funds by the Dept. of Interior.
What interests me is not the specific issue of mismanagement or even computer security on its face, but the larger issue of shuttering the cyberdoors of an entire Cabinet-level department of the US Government as a valid method of getting the department's attention (my interpretation of what this is really all about). It's difficult to imagine how the business of the Interior Department could even continue under those conditions. eGovernment isn't just about renewing your vehicle registration more conveniently, it's about new and better ways of doing virtually all government activities.
If Congress were to propose not passing a budget for Interior as a penalty for something, the media would be screaming about critical government operations being shutdown. I don't sense the same degree of concern over shutting down Interior's Internet access. Either they don't get what it means, or they're OK with the government not doing anything as long as people still get paid.
That gets us back to security. In an era where online interactions with citizens and other government agencies are so important, computer security becomes a critical issue since it does have the power to shutdown that vital conduit. I'm not sure where the truth lies with Interior. Is computer security at Interior significantly worse that other federal agencies, are they simply in the spotlight cast by Lamberth, or is it a red herring? Leave a comment and let me know what you think.