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Some Government Websites Aren't Working Now Because Of The Partial Shutdown

With IT workers furloughed, essential digital security certificates haven’t been renewed, making the sites unavailable.

Posted on January 11, 2019, at 9:23 p.m. ET

Johannes Eisele / AFP / Getty Images

Some government websites aren’t working because of the partial shutdown and even more have been rendered insecure, potentially exposing the data of people who visit the sites.

The site for the Seventh Circuit of the US Court of Appeals, an appellate court district that spans Wisconsin, Illinois, and Indiana, appeared unavailable before reappearing via an insecure connection. Sites for NASA and the Department of Justice were also inaccessible on a Chrome browser due to insecure connections.

Blake Montgomery

The problem stems from a failure to renew the sites’ Transport Layer Security (TLS) certificates, according to Netcraft, which monitors TLS activity. In layperson’s terms, a TLS certificate authenticates a website to your browser and ensures that people can’t snoop on the information you send to the site. The missed renewal has affected more than 80 government sites, Netcraft reported.

Most modern browsers hide the option to continue to a site on an insecure connection, but some government sites are reportedly set up to allow it.

The federal government has been partially shut down since Dec. 22 due to a standoff between President Trump and House Democrats over his demands for billions of dollars for a US–Mexico border wall.

Hundreds of thousands of federal workers, including information technology staff, have been furloughed as a result of the shutdown and, as of Friday, aren’t getting their paychecks.

The Court of Appeals, NASA, and the DOJ did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Blake Montgomery

A BuzzFeed News investigation, in partnership with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, based on thousands of documents the government didn't want you to see.