Shutdown Takes Numerous Government Digital Services Offline

A sign at the National Zoo alerts would-be visitors, that the zoo and all Smithsonian Museums are closed because of the government shutdown.

A sign at the National Zoo alerts would-be visitors, that the zoo and all Smithsonian Museums are closed because of the government shutdown. bakdc/Shutterstock.com

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It’s also left some websites vulnerable to cyber threats.

Numerous federal websites, digital processes and data streams are down as a result of what has become the longest government shutdown in history.

Now in its 26th day, the shutdown is limiting agencies’ ability to conduct the day-to-day operations needed to maintain their online systems. Digital services like websites and data feeds are among the most direct ways for citizens to interact with the government, but without funding, many of those connections have been cut off.

And beyond sites going offline, a number of online portals are becoming less secure as their encryption certificates expire.

Here’s a quick look at how the shutdown is affecting the government’s online presence:

Data.gov is Down

Data.gov, the primary access point for public government datasets, is unavailable as a result of the shutdown. The site is managed by the General Services Administration’s Technology Transformation Service, which currently only has enough staff to operate call centers and keep USA.gov up and running, according to the GSA contingency plan. While the government’s main website is still accessible, it won’t be updated during the shutdown.

Uncertified Sites

The TLS certificates for more than 80 government websites have expired since the shutdown began, leaving users potentially vulnerable to cyberattacks, according to the internet security company Netcraft. These certificates verify the identity of servers and encrypt data as it flows across the network, preventing man-in-the-middle style cyberattacks. Without feds to renew them, however, many sites have been left vulnerable to impersonation.

Evading E-Verify

The site companies use to check employees’ eligibility to work is also out of operation. E-Verify.gov is intended to prevent immigrants from working here illegally, but with the Homeland Security Department shuttered, the service is no longer available. The irony of the situation was not lost on NPR. However, the agency suspended its three-day rule and directs federal contractors that must comply with Federal Acquisition Register E-Verify rules to reach out to their contracting officers to get extended deadlines.

FTC You Later

A number of sites run by the Federal Trade Commission are also inaccessible due to the lapse in funding. While the regulatory agency’s main page is still up, the National Do Not Call Registry, where consumers can theoretically sign up to block robocalls, is not. The agency’s site for reporting identity theft is also offline.

Weathering the Storm, or Not

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has been forced to take many of its weather and climate databases offline because of the shutdown, according to Nature. NASA reportedly had to do the same. These databases serve as valuable resources for the scientific and academic communities, and numerous research efforts could be thrown into limbo if they stay down too long.