Say That Again

by Karl Bode


Filed Under:
ajit pai, ddos, fcc, john oliver, lies, ron wyden



Senator Wyden Argues FCC Is Either Incompetent Or Lying About Alleged DDoS Attack

from the derailing-the-John-Oliver-effect dept

Last week we noted how the FCC was acting incredibly suspicious in regards to its May claim that a DDOS attack, not annoyed John Oliver viewers, brought down the agency's website shortly after Oliver's latest rant on net neutrality. Despite pressure from journalists and several Senators, the FCC is simply refusing to release any data providing the existence of the attack, resulting in many media outlets not so subtly implying that the agency was lying:

"The FCC’s refusal to produce records of any true relevance reflects pressure from the agency’s upper echelon to limit the disclosure of information about the incident to a handful of carefully crafted public statements...It would be hard for a government agency to do more to give off the impression that it was engaged in a cover up. That’s troubling given the rise of questions over the FCC’s integrity.

As we noted last week, there are really only two options here. One, the FCC was attacked coincidentally at the same time John Oliver's program aired, it just failed to do any meaningful written analysis of the attack, and has zero interest in being transparent about it. Two, the FCC made up the attack completely to try to deflate all the talk about the "John Oliver effect" in the press, a misguided continuation of the agency's clear desire to downplay the massive public opposition to Pai's plan to kill net neutrality.

Based on the FCC's other recent behaviors in regards to ignoring comment fraud to this same purpose, it's fairly obvious the latter is a very real possibility. But with the FCC refusing to comply to FOIA requests, it's going to take some notable outside pressure to get to the truth. That's not going to be easy given that despite broad bipartisan support for the rules, ISPs have successfully convinced the public this is a partisan issue, which helps them stall meaningful discourse by bogging the entire process down in thinking-optional partisan patty cake.

Under the din of this dysfunction, Senator Ron Wyden was quick to highlight at the hearing that the FCC doesn't look particularly good here regardless of your political leaning:

"Senator Ron Wyden...stated in an email to Gizmodo that the agency’s response to Gizmodo’s FOIA request raised "legitimate questions about whether the agency is being truthful when it claims a DDoS attack knocked its commenting system offline."

The Oregon senator said it was critical that the agency produce evidence of the attack, if only so independent experts could verify and learn something from it. He continued: "If the FCC did suffer a DDoS attack and yet created no written materials about it, that would be deeply irresponsible and cast doubt on how the FCC could possibly prevent future attacks. On the other hand, if FCC is playing word games to avoid responding to FOIA requests, it would clearly violate Chairman Ajit Pai’s pledge to increase transparency at the FCC."

The FCC's contention is that for fifteen hours after the attack, nobody sent an e-mail, wrote a memo, or documented this supposed attack in any fashion. And again, this lack of transparency about any of this is in stark contrast to FCC boss Ajit Pai's repeated, breathless claims that he was going to bring a new wave of transparency to the agency. This lack of transparency will become increasingly stark as the agency continues to gut popular, meaningful consumer protections -- leaving the only thing standing between you and your carrier's bullshit an unelected bureaucrat that believes anti-competitive behavior in the telecom sector isn't a real problem.


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  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 25 Jul 2017 @ 10:56am

    Either?

    Can't it be both? Maybe there was no attack, but in a bizarre coincidence, sheer incompetence by critical staffers disabled key servers at just the time that John Oliver viewers were trying to make their voices heard. No one wants to admit they broke their site accidentally, so there's no paper trail saying so, thus nothing for the FOIA process to uncover.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 25 Jul 2017 @ 10:56am

    Senator Wyden is completely wrong.

    The FCC is incompetent and lying.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 25 Jul 2017 @ 11:05am

    This feels terribly depressing mostly for the way despite being incompetent and/or lying, I can't imagine there being any repercussions.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 25 Jul 2017 @ 11:08am

    Wyden messed up

    The answer isn't either or -- it is BOTH.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Trump Lover, 25 Jul 2017 @ 11:11am

    It's not lying...

    it's alternative truth!

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 25 Jul 2017 @ 11:16am

    I'm throwing the bullshit flag on this one

    "The FCC's contention is that for fifteen hours after the attack, nobody sent an e-mail, wrote a memo, or documented this supposed attack in any fashion."

    Bullshit. Even in 1988, our response to what today we'd call a DDoS attack (Morris worm) happened with minutes to hours and resulted in a flurry of email and a mountain of documentation. And back then, we didn't have SIEM and IDS and all the other tools that are commonplace today.

    There is no possible way that this happened in silence.

    So either (a) it happened, and they're lying about it, or (b) it didn't happen, and they're lying about that.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Ninja (profile), 25 Jul 2017 @ 11:17am

    We know Pai lied. So what will be the consequences?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 25 Jul 2017 @ 11:17am

    Dear Mr. Bode

    You got this wrong:

    "As we noted last week, there are really only two options here. One, the FCC was attacked coincidentally at the same time John Oliver's program aired, it just failed to do any meaningful written analysis of the attack, and has zero interest in being transparent about it. Two, the FCC made up the attack completely to try to deflate all the talk about the "John Oliver effect" in the press, a misguided continuation of the agency's clear desire to downplay the massive public opposition to Pai's plan to kill net neutrality."

    It would have been trivial for the FCC to throttle the traffic to and from the web server in order to make it look like things were under attack.

    Remember, deception is one's friend and the government has been at it for a long time.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 25 Jul 2017 @ 11:27am

    good for him! problem is, the truth doesn't hurt Pai. call him a cunt and he asks how big a one!!

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    That One Guy (profile), 25 Jul 2017 @ 12:30pm

    Transparency in lies, the only transparency the new FCC believes in

    Assuming the comment spotted and then reposted here by Ninja is accurate, the FCC has good reason to refuse to hand over the logs, and it's because they would show that not only was there no attack, but they know who's submitting fraudulent comments, could shut them down at any time, and are refusing to do so.

    Pai would have to be insanely stupid to hand over such incriminating evidence, and so it's no wonder he's playing stupid and incompetent here. The appearance of being dishonest and suspicion of being engaged in dodgy behavior is still worlds better than proof of both.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Kronomex, 25 Jul 2017 @ 3:30pm

    The FCC is trying the same stunt that our Bureau of Statistics in Australia pulled when the census site crashed last year: "It wasn't our fault we were DDoS'd. Wah, wah, we're the innocent party." It's always somebody else's fault.

    I'm surprised that the head of a the FCC can even move about with all that corporate money jammed in his pockets.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Norahc (profile), 25 Jul 2017 @ 3:49pm

    Sen. Wyden is asking the wrong people about this. He just needs to ask the NSA or FBI so that they can use it as a platform to push for more surveillance and encryption back doors.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Hero, 25 Jul 2017 @ 4:01pm

    Leadership by Example

    Maybe Wyden can lead by example by reading the full 6000-page torture report in order to put it in the public, congressional record.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    12th Street Watcher, 26 Jul 2017 @ 7:47am

    Either they lied or they lied - If John Oliver can DDOS

    Senator Wyden is probably the only person in Congress that understands technology (I still remember some of his first fights in the mid/late 1990s). When he talks Internet, one should listen (even if they disagree!)

    Not sure if the FCC report on whether they went under DDoS attack or were overwhelmed by disgruntled John Oliver viewers matters much – either way, it shows that the FCC is woefully unprepared for basic Internet security, and if they can’t protect themselves how can they be trusted to regulate the net.

    As others have said either (A) they lied or (B) they lied.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 26 Jul 2017 @ 10:22am

    As we noted last week, there are really only two options here.

    There is actually a third option.

    First, we assume that a large number of Oliver's viewers from many different locations went to the FCC to submit a comment, which satisfies the distributed requirement for a DDOS attack.

    Wikipedia says "Denial of service is typically accomplished by flooding the targeted machine or resource with superfluous requests...to prevent some or all legitimate requests from being fulfilled."

    If we then assume that Pai's FCC has no intention of paying attention to or caring about comments in favor of the rules, and we assume that Oliver's viewers were in favor of the rules, then any comments made by them are superfluous. Further, with the website down legitimate comments (those that are against net neutrality) were going unfulfilled during that time. All of which then qualifiers this as a DOS.

    Thus, a DDOS attack on the FCC website.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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