Congressional Democrats Call for GAO Probe into Alleged FCC Cyberattack

Ajit Pai testifying in Senate Commerce hearing


The top Democrats on House and Senate panels with jurisdiction over the Federal Communications Commission want an independent federal investigation into the agency’s claim that it was hit with a cyberattack earlier this year.

The FCC announced in May that its online commenting system was hit with distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attacks shortly after the agency opened its plan to revise its net neutrality rules to public input. Those attacks caused the system to repeatedly go down while people tried to submit comments, the agency said.

Sen. Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii) and Rep. Frank Pallone (D-N.J.) asked for a Government Accountability Office investigation into whether any such attacks actually took place in an Aug. 17 letter to U.S. Comptroller General Gene Dodaro. 

The lawmakers wrote that “questions remain about the attack itself and more generally about the state of cybersecurity at the FCC — questions that warrant an independent review.”

Schatz and Pallone want the GAO to look into the evidence the FCC relied on to determine that it had been the target of a DDoS attack. They also want the GAO to examine the vulnerability of and cybersecurity practices behind the FCC’s commenting portal and other online systems.

Democratic lawmakers have previously called for investigations into the alleged attacks from the FCC and the FBI. The FCC had already consulted with the FBI and concluded that the attacks did indeed happen but weren’t serious enough to merit further FBI involvement, FCC Chairman Ajit Pai said in a June 15 letter to Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.).

Schatz and Pallone wrote in their letter that the FCC and FBI haven’t released “any records or documentation that would allow for confirmation that an attack occurred, that it was effectively dealt with, and that the FCC has begun to institute measures to thwart future attacks and ensure the security of its systems.”