Senate Democrats press FCC’s Pai over alleged cyber attacks on agency website
Two Democratic senators have asked the Federal Communications Commission for further details about the supposed cyberattacks blamed with disrupting access to the FCC website in 2014 and 2017 as reports cast doubt on whether the hacks ever happened.
Sen. Brian Schatz of Hawaii and Sen. Ron Wyden of Oregon wrote FCC Chairman Ajit Pai on Monday seeking answers concerning the alleged distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attacks after recent reporting raised questions about the commission’s past claims.
The FCC’s Electronic Comment Filing System (ECFS) briefly crashed in May 2017 after “Last Week Tonight” host John Oliver urged viewers of his weekly HBO program to oppose the commission’s proposed elimination of Obama-era net neutrality protections, and FCC’s chief information officer, David Bray, subsequently told reporters that both that outage and another three years earlier were the result of malicious DDoS attacks waged in the aftermath of similar HBO segments.
Mr. Bray told several journalists last year that the supposed 2014 cyberattack was kept under wraps by Tom Wheeler, Mr. Pai’s predecessor, “out of concern of copycats,” according to internal FCC emails obtained by the American Oversight watchdog group and published by Gizmodo last week. Mr. Bray ultimately conceded to Gizmodo that the concerns over “copycats” were his own, however, and Mr. Wheeler said last week that he was under the impression neither alleged attack occurred.
“FCC officials who were there at the time said it didn’t happen,” Mr. Wheeler said during a taping of a C-SPAN program, “The Communicators,” Axios reported. “The independent IT contractors that were hired said it didn’t happen. So if it didn’t happen, it’s hard to have a coverup for something that didn’t happen.”
More than a year after first writing Mr. Pai requesting details about the supposed 2017 cyberattack, Mr. Schatz and Mr. Wyden sent a follow-up Monday seeking further information about both incidents, including the results of any external reviews undertaken involving either.
“[H]ave any FCC or third-party (e.g., vendor, contractor, or government agency) analyses or investigations verified that a cyberattack on ECFS occurred,” the lawmakers asked. “If not, why was no investigation conducted?”
“Please provide any and all reports, findings and other relevant details of any such investigations,” their letter said.
The Democrats have asked for Mr. Pai to respond in writing by June 27.
The FCC did not immediately return an email seeking comment.