US Court System downed by technical glitch, not hackers

UPDATED 2: The U.S. Court system was taken down Friday afternoon for several hours by a suspected denial-of-service attack. The FBI challenged such claims on Saturday.

On Friday afternoon, a technical glitch brought down the U.S. Court System.

An initial report from The Washington Post cited a federal court clerk claiming the outage was caused by a distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attack. However, as we first reported, there was little verification for it at the time. 

A group calling itself the European Cyber Army claimed responsibility on Twitter, but did not offer any more detail on the alleged attack.

Several sites were affected, including both the public web site for the courts and PACER, an electronic public access service that allows users to "obtain case and docket information from federal appellate, district and bankruptcy courts."

As of Friday evening, all sites appeared to be functioning.

An FBI spokeswoman said the agency was reassessing its initial position as the facts are being reviewed. "The FBI is prepared to assist the U.S. Federal Courts if necessary," she said in an email to ZDNet.

However, a government official familiar with the matter said the suggestion of a denial-of-service attack remained possible and that its assessment has not changed as it was on Friday — in conflict with the FBI's statement on Saturday.

Editor's note on January 25 at 3:15 p.m.: Added new information from a report by The Wall Street Journal on Saturday, citing an unnamed FBI spokesperson. The headline was updated to correct the initial reporting.

Updated on January 25 at 9:40 p.m.: With updated FBI statement and with additional government source material.