Oddly The Trump FCC Doesn't Much Want To Talk About Why It Made Up A DDOS Attack

from the radio-silent dept

We’ve discussed for a while how the FCC appears to have completely made up a DDOS attack in a bizarre effort to downplay the “John Oliver effect.” You’ll recall that both times the HBO Comedian did a bit on net neutrality (here’s the first and the second), the resulting consumer outrage crashed the FCC website. And while the FCC tried to repeatedly conflate genuine consumer outrage with a malicious attack, they just as routinely failed to provide any hard evidence supporting their allegations, resulting in growing skepticism over whether the FCC was telling the truth.

Last week, e-mails obtained via FOIA request revealed that yes, FCC staffers routinely misled journalists in order to prop up this flimsy narrative, apparently in the belief they could conflate consumer outrage with criminal activity. The motive? It was likely for the same reason the FCC refused to do anything about the identity theft and bogus comments we witnessed during the repeal’s open comment period: they wanted to try and downplay the massive, bipartisan public opposition to what the lion’s share of Americans thought was an idiotic, corruption-fueled repeal of popular consumer protections.

Understandably with so much going on, the story floated semi-quietly under the cacophony of other national outrages. But the FCC’s response to the story has proven to be somewhat comical all the same.

One of the FCC staffers accused of making false statements about the DDOS attack was recently departed FCC IT chief David Bray. Original reports stated that Bray and other staffers had been feeding this flimsy DDOS narrative to gullible reporters for years, then pointing to these inaccurate stories as “proof” the nonexistent attack occurred. Under fire in the wake of last week’s report, Bray first doubled down on his claims, adding that the 2014 “attack” hadn’t been publicized because former FCC boss Tom Wheeler covered it up. But Wheeler himself subsequently stated in a report late last week that this was unequivocally false:

“When I was in the greenroom waiting to come in here, I got an email from David Bray, who said ‘I never said that you told us not to talk about this and to cover up,’ which was the term that got used. Which of course is logical, because as the Gizmodo article that you referenced pointed out, A) FCC officials who were there at the time said it didn?t happen, [and] B) the independent IT contractors that were hired said it didn?t happen. So if it didn?t happen it?s hard to have a cover up for something that didn?t happen.”

Since this story was first published, the Trump FCC (which you’ll recall bragged it would be super transparent) has gone radio silent about the story. Multiple requests for comment from numerous news outlets have been ignored since the story broke:

“The FCC has gone dark on this issue. It is refusing to answer questions from reporters. It is even refusing to go on the record to say it stands by its own story about a malicious cyberattack causing its system to crash for a second time last year….(FCC media relations contact Brian Hart) did not respond to multiple follow ups. In fact, his office has not responded to related inquiries for the past eight days. And not just from Gizmodo; it did not respond to Newsweek nor Ars Technica either. When somehow reached by Nextgov, it declined to say anything at all.

It’s understandable the FCC doesn’t want to chat about why it’s withholding data and repeatedly making false statements (pdf) to the press and public, especially given the GAO is currently investigating this whole kerfuffle. Between this and the identity theft and comment fraud during the net neutrality repeal’s public comment period, one gets the aching suspicion there’s a few additional layers to this story that have yet to be unearthed. Both issues may also make an appearance during legal efforts to get popular net neutrality rules restored.

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Comments on “Oddly The Trump FCC Doesn't Much Want To Talk About Why It Made Up A DDOS Attack”

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31 Comments
That Anonymous Coward (profile) says:

Gee, one would think that an agency misleading the American public they are supposedly serving should result in something not nice happening to them.

They lied about a cyber attack.
They ignored their ballot box being stuffed.
They ignored citizens complaining they never submitted comments copy pasted in their name.
They lied about timelines & facts.
How can the public have any faith in an organization that clearly is beholden to the industry they were supposed to oversee?

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Time to bring in the Inspector General

This is clearly government fraud at the very least, and there are guidelines and processes for dealing with it. Time to bring in the IG team to review the complaints. Doesn’t take an act of Congress to initiate a complaint under Fraud, Waste, and Abuse rules.
https://www.fcc.gov/inspector-general

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

While it may not be fraud, perjury or obstruction of justice, "lying to the FBI" is technically a crime and one which is thrown at people fairly often when nothing else will stick.

While I can’t guarantee that the FCC made any official government report of the DDoS attack, there is some likelihood that they did, in which case said report would have been forwarded to the FBI as a criminal action against a government agency.

That, then, would meet the legal standard for "lying to the FBI," and potentially for filing a false complaint.

Joel Coehoorn says:

Pointless

This is silly and pointless…

OF COURSE the incident was just the John Oliver effect.

But from the FCC’s perspective, it’s still a DDoS. It’s just implemented differently, through social engineering rather than technical means. They can call it like this if they want.

The better approach would be to say, “Hey, this social-engineered DDoS is only possible mainly because of your own behavior. Why are you doing something that so easy to mock?”

Thad (user link) says:

Re: Pointless

But from the FCC’s perspective, it’s still a DDoS. It’s just implemented differently, through social engineering rather than technical means. They can call it like this if they want.

Except they specifically said that it wasn’t related to the Oliver segment.

These were deliberate attempts by external
actors to bombard the FCC’s comment system with a high amount of traffic to our commercial cloud host. These actors were not attempting to file comments themselves; rather they made it difficult for legitimate commenters to access and file with the FCC.

ryuugami says:

(FCC media relations contact Brian Hart) did not respond to multiple follow ups. In fact, his office has not responded to related inquiries for the past eight days. And not just from Gizmodo; it did not respond to Newsweek nor Ars Technica either. When somehow reached by Nextgov, it declined to say anything at all.

That’s pretty hilarious, for an entity named Federal Communications Commission.

ECA (profile) says:

Strange comment included..

Its a wonder that a DDOS attack can happen on a Gov. server, DESIGNED to handle an inrush of Email and comments..

What does the Gov. expect? Iv seen major sites DROP DEAD because of 1,000,000+ hits in a short period.
Wouldnt you think that BECAUSE they cant handle this amount of data in a short period, it Justifies the NEED for improved internet?? Esp to the GOV. SITES???

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