Digital rights advocacy group Fight for the Future is raising questions around the FCC’s report this week that the Commission’s electronic comment filing system suffered a series of distributed denial-of-service attacks (DDos). FCC Chief Information Officer David Bray said the attacks started around midnight on Sunday night. And as been widely splashed across the internet, those attacks happened swiftly after comedian John Oliver called on his “Last Week Tonight” viewers to use the FCC’s comment filing system to express their opinions about Chairman Ajit Pai’s recent comments around rolling back the Commission’s 2015’s net neutrality rules.
“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,” Bray said. “These actors were not attempting to file comments themselves; rather they made it difficult for legitimate commenters to access and file with the FCC.”
Fight for the Future used a statement to point to two possible scenarios that it finds concerning. The group says one possibility is the FCC is being “intentionally misleading and trying to claim the surge in traffic from large numbers of people attempting to access following John Oliver’s segment amounts to a DDoS attack.” It further opines that the Commission might do that “in order to let themselves off the hook for essentially silencing large numbers of people by not having a properly functioning site to receive comments from the public about an important issue.”
The group also said that if the DDoS attack did occur as the FCC reported, that means people could have been prevented from commenting in support of keeping the Title II net neutrality rules.
The FCC’s Bray noted in his statement that while the comment system remained up and running the entire time, the DDoS events tied up the servers and prevented them from responding to people attempting to submit comments. “We have worked with our commercial partners to address this situation and will continue to monitor developments going forward,” he concluded.
Fight for the Future called on the FCC to immediately release its logs to an independent security analyst or major news outlet to verify what happened.
Filed Under: Industry regulations