Government shutdown has left several USA agency websites inaccessible

US government shut down president donald trump

The partial U.S. federal government shutdown is starting to have a negative effect on web security. In the meantime, there's a chance that even more government sites could become effectively out of service if certificates weren't renewed in advance. House Democrats gathered to discuss the Democratic agenda as the partial government shutdown enters day 19.

According to Netcraft, a United Kingdom -based internet security services company, many government domains can't be accessed until someone fixes the certificates.

Netcraft cited a page at the Department of Justice's website with an expired certificate that rendered it inaccessible.

The reason for this is that many.gov websites rely on digital certificates to ensure that people can connect to these sites securely and that any interaction is encrypted to prevent eavesdropping. But TLS certificates are notoriously delicate things.

This includes the US Department of Justice, which is using a certificate that expired in the week leading up to the shutdown and has not been renewed since.

"With around 400,000 federal employees now furloughed, more than 80 TLS certificates used by.gov websites have so far expired without being renewed", Netcraft's Paul Mutton explains in a blog post.

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Except in this case, they can't - because there's nobody there to buy and install a new certificate.

Because some websites have failed to update their security certificates they have stopped working entirely.

Most major government websites aren't down or likely to go down any time soon.

DoJ subdomains are among many government sites covered by an HTTP Strict Transport Security (HSTS) policy. "In all there are some eighty ".gov" websites that are affected by the shutdown.

The company warned that as the shutdown wears on, the problem of expired TLS certificates will only get worse. Several government websites, such as the DoD, now greet users with a "CERT_DATE_INVALID" warning in place of the website itself.

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