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FCC Admits It Was Never Hacked During Net Neutrality Commenting Phase

Ajit Pai Fcc Credit: Gage Skidmore / Flickr
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The Federal Communications Commission has admitted that a supposed attack on their system during a net neutrality commenting period never actually took place.

Senior FCC officials, including chairman Ajit Pai, claimed that their system was hit with several distributed denial-of-service DDoS attacks on May 7, 2017. Ostensibly, that attack disrupted the public commenting phase at the height of the Commission’s efforts to kill net neutrality.

What actually happened is that the site, which was plagued by “system design issues,” was overloaded by a drastic increase in traffic, according to a new report from the FCC’s Office of the Inspector General (OIG).

“Our investigation did not substantiate the allegations of multiple DDoS attacks,” the OIG report said.

Originally, the OIG investigation was focused on finding proof of DDoS attacks targeting the FCC. Although it quickly shifted focus when the inspector general became concerned that FCC officials lied to Congress, Gizmodo reported.

That’s thanks in part to John Oliver’s Last Week Tonight, which encouraged users to leave comments defending net neutrality. Oliver even created a link to make it easier for viewers to leave pro-net neutrality comments.

Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel put out a statement today condemning the blame-shifting for the shutdown — saying that we “knew all along” that the FCC’s cyber attack claim was “bogus.”

“What happened instead is obvious — millions of Americans overwhelmed our online system because they wanted to tell us how important interest openness is to them and how distressed they were to see the FCC roll back their rights,” Rosenworcel said.

For his part, Pai said he was misled into believing that his agency had been targeted. In a statement released prior to the publication of the OIG report, Pai placed the blame on previous agency officials for allegedly providing “inaccurate information about this incident to me, my office, Congress, and the American people.”

“It has become clear that in addition to a flawed comment system, we inherited from the prior Administration a culture in which many members of the Commission’s career IT staff were hesitant to express disagreement with the Commission’s former CIO in front of FCC management,” Pai said.

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