Internal emails reveal that the FCC lied and made up DDOS “attack’ as propaganda against John Oliver

psbsve / Flickr John Oliver mocks Louis C K...
psbsve / Flickr

Back in 2014, John Oliver told his viewers to flood the FCC website in order to call for net neutrality. That led to the FCC website crashing. This past May, as Ajit Pai and the Republican-led FCC promised to roll back any and all consumer protections afforded to Americans via net neutrality, Oliver told his audience once again to flood the FCC website with their support for our protections. The site crashed but this time the FCC began to say that no, the overwhelming amount of online support for keeping net neutrality protections in place was not the cause, a massive DDOS attack on their servers was the reason. A malicious attack from some cyber-liberal bad actor! Of course, those claims were backed up by no evidence and a refusal to provide evidence or even investigate their own claims.

Gizmodo has been through a batch of new internal emails released as a result of their Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request. Guess what? About those claims FCC officials made? Yes, exactly.

Internal emails reviewed by Gizmodo lay bare the agency’s efforts to counter rife speculation that senior officials manufactured a cyberattack, allegedly to explain away technical problems plaguing the FCC’s comment system amid its high-profile collection of public comments on a controversial and since-passed proposal to overturn federal net neutrality rules.

The FCC has been unwilling or unable to produce any evidence an attack occurred—not to the reporters who’ve requested and even sued over it, and not to U.S. lawmakers who’ve demanded to see it. Instead, the agency conducted a quiet campaign to bolster its cyberattack story with the aid of friendly and easily duped reporters, chiefly by spreading word of an earlier cyberattack that its own security staff say never happened.

David Bray was the FCC’s chief information officer from 2013 until 2017 and seems to have used his position to create the unsupported and evidence-less propaganda that a cyber attack was the reason the FCC’s website went down in both 2014 and in 2017. But, Gizmodo has already exposed Bray for pitching his worthless propaganda.

David Bray, who served as the FCC’s chief information officer from 2013 until June 2017, assured reporters in a series of off-the-record exchanges that a DDoS attack had occurred three years earlier. More shocking, however, is that Bray claimed Wheeler, the former FCC chairman, had covered it up.

According to emails from Bray to reporters, Wheeler was concerned that if the FCC publicly admitted there was an attack, it would likely incite “copycats.”

People that worked with Wheeler say Bray is straight out lying; and Bray has not and cannot provide evidence. Most likely because he’s full of shit.

Multiple FCC sources—including one with direct knowledge of the agency’s security operations—tell Gizmodo that, in June 2014, no evidence was ever produced that a cyberattack occurred. In the wake of Oliver’s net neutrality segment, the agency’s Network Security Operations Center (NSOC) pored over data collected by various logs. But it was unable to locate any proof to support Bray’s claim that a malicious attacker was responsible for the comment system’s failure.

Gizmodo provides this Wall Street Journal story as an example of the con artistry involved in propagating this bogus sideshow story in order to temper anti-FCC backlash. Entitled “Bots, Denial of Service Are Latest Weapons in Net Neutrality Battle: Dirty tricks partly blamed for disruptions to regulator’s comments system,” that story has this fact free bit of reporting.

But FCC officials on Monday said that the DDoS attacks were to blame for the balky site, not the volume of legitimate comments. They added the attacks could have been aimed at “producing publicity by appearing to crash the site.” They also revealed that the 2014 show had been followed by DDoS attacks too. 

Written by WSJ tech reporter John McKinnon, Bray used this little piece as “evidence” when arguing his baseless claims in 2017 to citizens and other reporters. He created a rumor, got it reported as a “fact,” and then used that “fact” to support his new made up story. The emails that Gizmodo go through show a variety of news outlets being used in similar fashion, then having their work used as the evidence needed by Bray to sidestep offering up any real evidence of an attack.

The emails have been put here if you want to read the banality of evil in email form.

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