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Wheeler: There Was No DDoS Attack 'Cover Up' in 2014

FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler said there was definitely no distributed denial of service attack (DDoS) back in 2014, when comments were flooding the FCC about his take on net neutrality rules.

The issue surfaced this week when Gizmodo reported on what appeared to be a concerted effort by the FCC to mislead the public about cyberattack claims--in May 2017 and back in 2014--related to the network neutrality comment docket.

Gizmodo said that, according to e-mails it had obtained, former FCC chief information officer David Bray had pushed a "fallacious" account of a 2014 problem with the net neutrality docket to suggest the FCC had long been the target of DDoS attacks, saying that back in 2014, then FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler had not wanted to admit the attack publicly for fear of copycats.

The FCC, under new chairman Ajit Pai, had indicated that the docket in 2017 had suffered a distributed denial of service attack (DDoS), which explained problems with processing the volume of comments it received on the proposal to roll back net neutrality rules. Officials also told reporters that something similar happened in 2014.

Related: Pallone Disturbed by FCC Net Neutrality Docket Story

Net neutrality activists have been skeptical about the DDoS assertion, suggesting the problem may just have been the FCC's inability to handle the flood of legitimately filed--if not all legitimately sourced--comments, potentially denying some voices their say on whether to roll back the regs, voices the FCC is supposed to weigh in its decisions.

In an interview with C-SPAN for its Communicators series, Wheeler was asked about the claim that Wheeler had not wanted the 2014 docket issues to be identified as a DDoS attack because he feared copycats.

Related: Dems Seek Expanded Investigation Into Fake Comments

Wheeler said he had just gotten an e-mail from Bray saying that he had never said Wheeler had told them not to talk about the issue or "cover it up."

Wheeler said that was logical since, as Gizmodo pointed out, FCC officials there at the time said a DDoS attack "didn't happen" and IT independent contractors said it didn't happen. "So, if it didn't happen, it's hard to have a cover up of something that didn't happen."

Wheeler was asked about an e-mail Gizmodo had obtained from Bray to a reporter that suggested Wheeler had wanted to keep it quiet. The former chairman said he would go with the e-mail that he had literally just received in C-SPAN's green room before the show. 

Bray also said of the flap that whether it was "a non-traditional denial of service or an RSS flood that prevented system resources from others seems to be semantics?" 

He said what happened was that there was a "crash" during the "Trump FCC's" open internet proceeding, which was portrayed as a DDoS attack with the ensuing line that this had happened under Wheeler's tenure as well. "There is independent verification that [a DDoS attack] didn't happen," he said, adding: "Next topic."

He would not weigh in on why the Pai FCC had implied that such an attack had happened.