It has been more than a year since Ajit Pai and the Federal Communications Commission claimed that the Agency's archive system was cyber-attacked during the height of the net neutrality debate last year. But after the speculation of the public and the congress, the commission has finally gotten clean. According to a report released yesterday by the Inspector General of the Authority, there was no DDoS (Distributed Denial of Service) attack, and this disclosure of false information to the Congress prompted a deeper investigation into whether senior FCC officials had violated the law ,
On May 7 last year, comedian John Oliver featured in his broadcast Last Week Tonight a segment that caused viewers to Net neutrality comments on the Commission's Internet Freedom Recovery process. The procedure, which was finally approved in December, removed the rules of the former administration that codified core network neutrality principles, such as prohibiting service providers from limiting users' Internet speed and blocking legitimate online content. Oliver told people to both watch his show and follow him on Twitter to flood the FCC website with the use of memorable links such as gofccyourself.com and justtellmeifimrelatedtoanazi.com. That night, the FCC's archiving system crashed.
The next morning senior officials told the commission that "some outside people have been trying to send heavy traffic to tie up the server," said e-mails revealed by the Inspector General. The suggestion was that the site was not shut down by a flood of valid complaints but was flooded with fabricated traffic. The claim came from former Chief Information Officer David Bray. And although several people denied its unsubstantiated conclusion in e-mail chains, the DDoS theory was passed on to commissioners like Pai, who told the congressman that the events that night were "classified as non-traditional DDoS attacks."
Even If the suggestion that the shutdown was tied to a DDoS attack was in good faith, the Commission should have known better. The FCC knew that Oliver was planning to lead a net neutrality segment in his show. The report features a producer of Last Week Tonight who focuses on giving the agency a "heads up" day before the episode starts. This email has been forwarded to Matthew Berry, the FCC Chief of Staff. After talking with other employees, the agency decided not to respond.
The report mentions that neither Bray nor IT had been notified of the pre-broadcast episode, but in email correspondence with other FCC officials, Bray is asked if the shutdown was the result of Oliver's program. The commission also knew that Oliver's show had the power to crash enough viewers. Only three years earlier, Oliver had run a similar segment that media reported he may have closed the site as well.
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In his reply, Pai told the congressman that Bray had been instructed to consult with the FBI. And after the alleged DDoS attack was discussed, it was determined that it was "not reaching the level of a major incident that would trigger further involvement by the FBI. But after talking to the agent who spoke to Bray, the Inspector General stated that the bureau never classifies cyberattacks as "important" or not and that the sole purpose of these talks is to determine if a crime has been committed. The IG's report also notes that the Commission had not conducted enough analysis for the event in response to Bray's conversation with the FBI to even be considered DDoS under the authorities' standards.
And this evidence never came. "We learned very quickly that there was no analysis that supported the conclusion that it was a DDoS attack," the report said. That was when the focus of the OIG investigation shifted from the alleged cyber attack to FCC officials and how they might have broken the law by misrepresenting Congress. It was only in December that the Ministry of Justice was commissioned to handle the case. After examining the information provided by the OIG, the law enforcement agency decided not to take any criminal action. The DOJ was asked to comment, but did not respond to the press.
Pai responded to the report on Monday, a day before the publication, by passing the money to Chief Information Officer Bray and the former government:  I am pleased that this report exposes the conspiracy theory that my office or I knew that the information provided by the former CIO was inaccurate and that this inaccurate information could be disseminated for political purposes. , , It has become clear that, in addition to a flawed commentary system, we inherited from the previous administration a culture in which many members of the IT staff of the Commission were reluctant to speak to the former CIO of the Commission prior to FCC management.
After the Inspector General's report was first published, members of Congress and lobby groups condemned the Commission and Ajit Pai for not correcting the false information earlier. Representative Mike Doyle (D-PA), who signed a letter at the beginning of the investigation asking the agency for answers, wrote a tweet, "This is an unacceptable behavior of a federal agency and inappropriate behavior of its leadership."  In Pai's defense, he notes that he was asked by the Inspector General's Office to withdraw from the investigation while she was still in the process. At last month's hearing of the Energy and Trade Agency, Pai diverted lawmakers' inquiries, with reference to the ongoing investigation.
The toughest condemnation of Pai's actions came from "Fight for the Future," an advocacy group for net neutrality. what Pai asked to resign. "Ajit Pai should resign, these new revelations from the FCC's internal investigation are a smoking weapon," the group said in a statement. "They clearly show that the FCC chairman knew months ago that the FCC's commentary system had never committed a cyber attack, but had done nothing to disseminate the false narrative in a cynical attempt, the overwhelming opposition to its attack on the Downplaying net neutrality. "
The publication of the IG report also provides important ammunition for senators from the Committee on Trade, Science and Transport to urge commissioners to their FCC control meeting next week. Sen. Schatz, who sent the first letter to the agency with Wyden, sits on the committee and is an outspoken critic of the Commission and its ambition to reverse net neutrality last winter.