The FCC Admits Last Year’s Infamous Hack Never Actually Happened

August 13, 2018 - 4 minutes read

Last year, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) reported that the comments section of its website was hacked. Recently, the agency confirmed what many had already suspected — the hack never actually happened.

Smoke and Mirrors

Back in May 2017, the idea of the FCC repealing net neutrality was starting to become more of a real threat. Comedian and talk show host John Oliver encouraged his audience to leave comments on the agency’s site urging them not to.

Ready to take a stance against repealing net neutrality, visitors flocked to the site — and discovered that it was down. This wasn’t that out of the ordinary. After all, websites go down all the time. And in this case, most people assumed it was simply due to too much traffic.

But this was not so, said the FCC. Instead, the agency claimed to be the victim of a distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attack, an assault in which a hacker (or group of hackers) overwhelms a site by bombarding it with too much data at once.

Thanks, Obama

Recently, the FCC has backtracked on this hacking claim. A recent statement from FCC Chairman Ajit Pai instead places the blame elsewhere (surprise, surprise). Pai says the only reason the FCC thought it was hacked was because someone from the Obama administration said so!

This deflection of blame isn’t unusual for the FCC or Pai. For the last year, they’ve dodged any questioning about the hacking, refused to release any information about it, and never updated the public about the investigation.

This “beating around the bush” finally backfired when the Office of Inspector General (OIG) prepared to release a report on its findings of the incident. The report still hasn’t been published, but let me save you some trouble: the OIG concluded the hack never happened.

Pai’s Statement

In an effort to beat the report to the punchline, Pai released a statement in which he basically blames everyone else for assuming the incident was a hack at all:

“With respect to the report’s findings, I am deeply disappointed that the FCC’s former Chief Information Officer (CIO), who was hired by the prior Administration and is no longer with the Commission, provided inaccurate information about this incident to me, my office, Congress, and the American people. This is completely unacceptable.”

Pai left no stone unturned in his finger-pointing:

“I’m also disappointed that some working under the former CIO apparently either disagreed with the information that he was presenting or had questions about it, yet didn’t feel comfortable communicating their concerns to me or my office.”

Who’s Held Accountable?

So far, there’s no indication that the agency will face any consequences from this deliberate diversion. The U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) is looking into the incident.

Pai did admit that the hacking investigation has made it clear the FCC desperately needs to update its comment system. And apparently, now, it has the funds to do exactly that.

It shouldn’t have to be said that this sort of blame game is completely unacceptable. Whether you’re a politician in Washington or a mobile app developer in San Francisco, the FCC’s behavior affects everyone as we’ve seen from the recent net neutrality repeal.

What do you make of this debacle? Let us know in the comments!

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