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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  • This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
    identicon
    Richard Bennett, 12 Jun 2018 @ 6:57am

    Bode is a McBodeybodey face! Nyah!

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 12 Jun 2018 @ 7:00am

    Im confused

    The Obama administration supported net neutrality, so its bad right?

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

  • icon
    That Anonymous Coward (profile), 12 Jun 2018 @ 7:04am

    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?

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

    • identicon
      Iggy, 12 Jun 2018 @ 7:15am

      Re:

      As I pointed out earlier, for a normal person this would be called Fraud, Perjury, and Obstruction of Justice. Whether Ajit Pai will share the fate of other fraudsters like Martin Skrelli remains to be seen but he is a criminal nonetheless.

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

      • identicon
        Thad, 12 Jun 2018 @ 8:08am

        Re: Re:

        While I think it's clear that Pai lied, and dragged his feet on FOIA compliance to hide that lie, I'm not seeing how that meets the legal standard for fraud, perjury, or obstruction of justice. Do you have a legal argument for how, specifically, it meets those definitions?

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

        • icon
          James Burkhardt (profile), 12 Jun 2018 @ 9:05am

          Re: Re: Re:

          Seconded.

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

          • identicon
            Anonymous Coward, 12 Jun 2018 @ 9:23am

            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

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

        • identicon
          Anonymous Coward, 12 Jun 2018 @ 12:07pm

          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.

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

          • icon
            James Burkhardt (profile), 12 Jun 2018 @ 2:13pm

            Re: Re: Re: Re:

            Except, lying to the FBI is actually called obstruction of justice, and the lie would need to be during the course of an investigation, which is less likely to be true.

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 12 Jun 2018 @ 7:24am

      Re:

      How can the public have any faith in an organization that clearly is beholden to the industry they were supposed to oversee?

      It's funny how you think that Republicans want the public to have faith in any part of the government.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 12 Jun 2018 @ 7:13am

    Oddly...

    No. It would be odd if they *did*.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 12 Jun 2018 @ 7:20am

    If lying to a fed is a serious crime...

    lying *by* one should be also.

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

  • identicon
    Joel Coehoorn, 12 Jun 2018 @ 8:06am

    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?"

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

    • identicon
      Thad, 12 Jun 2018 @ 8:12am

      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.

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

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 12 Jun 2018 @ 8:50am

        Re: Re: Pointless

        Well, obviously all of these external Oliver-inspired actors that were bombarding the comment system were getting in the way of the FCC bots that were trying to post valid anti-NN criticism ;)

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

  • identicon
    ryuugami, 12 Jun 2018 @ 9:11am

    (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.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 12 Jun 2018 @ 9:19am

    rename them to the FSB...

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

  • identicon
    Another Anonymous Coward, 12 Jun 2018 @ 10:22am

    First Rule of Holes

    When you find yourself in a hole, quit digging.

    Apparently the FCC does know that, at least.

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

  • icon
    ECA (profile), 12 Jun 2018 @ 11:10am

    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???

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

  • icon
    Ninja (profile), 12 Jun 2018 @ 12:05pm

    They are too busy choking on their arguments of how wonderful they are and how repealing NN rules will make milk and honey flow out of your internet connections. Ahem.

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

  • icon
    Tim R (profile), 12 Jun 2018 @ 12:20pm

    "The FCC has gone dark on this issue"

    Take notes, FBI. This is how you properly use the phrase.

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

  • icon
    Bergman (profile), 12 Jun 2018 @ 2:25pm

    A funny thought occurred to me...

    If the DDoS attack that never was is a valid reason not to comply with existing laws, then a company could indefinitely dodge warrant or subpoena compliance by making the one channel they are able to respond through so low bandwidth that it crashes under a single response.

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

    • icon
      OldGeezer (profile), 12 Jun 2018 @ 8:51pm

      Re: A funny thought occurred to me...

      Or they could claim they were bombarded by so many copy/pasted bots by the living & dead that people calling in response to Oliver's reporting couldn't get through.

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


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