FCC Knew in January DDoS Attack Claim Was Possibly Bogus

FCC Chairman Ajit Pai and FCC Commissioner Brendan Carr talk before the start of the Senate Committee on Commerce Science and Transportation hearing on Thursday

FCC Chairman Ajit Pai told a Senate committee Thursday that he relied on the agency's chief information officer in claiming that the FCC had suffered a cyberattack past year after people experienced difficulties filing online comments regarding the future of net neutrality rules - even though Pai suspected that this wasn't the case. Pai said earlier this month that he did not publicly discuss the IG's investigation, at the request of the IG, until the report was issued on August 7. "I did what I thought was the right thing to do". "I made the judgment that we had to adhere to the [inspector general's] request, even though I knew we would be falsely attacked for having done something inappropriate", Pai said.

Four members of Congress wrote a letter to Pai on Tuesday saying they were "deeply disturbed" by an Inspector General's report that showed the FCC was not hit by a distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attack after Last Week Tonight host John Oliver called on viewers to leave public comments in favor of keeping net neutrality protections.

The FCC quickly blamed the site's failure on a purported DDoS attack that sought to take the online commenting system down, but the agency struggled to provide evidence of the attack.

The FCC's Inspector General released a report earlier this month which found no evidence of a DDOS attack, but rather said the agency's comment system was overwhelmed by a large volume of people attempting to file comments in the proceeding. It will mark Pai's first appearance in front of members of Congress since the FCC inspector general released a report concluding the agency "misrepresented facts and provided misleading responses to Congressional inquiries" related to an alleged cyberattack.

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Pai is also likely to face questions about the incident from Senate Democrats on Thursday during a Senate oversight committee hearing. But by then, the IG's office had chose to fully investigate the incident, including whether it should be referred to the US Department of Justice for criminal prosecution. "We were told for many months that this decision would be "the end of the internet as we know it" - that if this decision passed you would get the internet one word at a time", Pai said.

"We knew he was lying about his reasons for killing net neutrality, but now we know his agency also lied to Congress, journalists, and the public about something as serious as a cyberattack", Evan Greer, the deputy director of the group, said in a statement.

Pai stood his ground, telling the Committee his hands were tied. Pai and his staff supported the CIO's assertion there'd been a DDoS attack. "The story in [the IG's report] vindicates my position", he added.

Sen. Schatz wasn't buying it. "I look forward to hearing how the commission will prevent such mistakes in the future", the senator said.

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