Top Democrats on the House Energy and Commerce Committee and Oversight and Government Reform Committee today asked the Government Accountability Office to review the FCC’s information technology and cybersecurity practices in the wake of “irregularities” recently discovered in the Commission’s electronic comment filing system (ECFS). A distributed denial of service (DDoS) attack was launched against the ECFS in May shortly after the FCC opened a docket for its high-profile “net neutrality” proceeding. Despite the attack, which deluged the ECFS with traffic that was three times higher than its normal peaks, FCC officials said the system remained secure (TR Daily, June 27).
But the six Democratic leaders expressed concern in a letter to GAO that some would-be commenters were blocked from filing their comments in the net neutrality proceeding and that the FCC’s systems might be inadequate to handle large flows of comments. “We hope to obtain additional information, particularly whether the agency’s cyber systems can adequately accommodate large volumes of input from the public during high-profile rulemaking proceedings. We are also interested in a general understanding of the adequacy of the FCC’s cyber controls and defenses,” they said.
“Cybersecurity and other problems can have a direct functional impact on the mission of the FCC,” they added. “We are concerned that these problems and irregularities raise doubts about the fairness, and perhaps even the legitimacy, of the FCC’s process in its net neutrality proceeding.”
They asked the GAO to, among other things, “identify how many visitors were unable to access the FCC’s website and file comments during the time the system experienced a high amount of traffic” and to “determine and assess what measures, if any, the FCC is taking to protect its networks, especially ECFS, from denial-of-service attacks, and the sufficiency of those measures.”
The letter was signed by Energy and Commerce ranking member Frank Pallone Jr. (D., N.J.), Oversight and Government Reform ranking member Elijah Cummings (D., Md.), communications and technology subcommittee ranking member Mike Doyle (D., Pa.), oversight and investigations subcommittee ranking member Diana DeGette (D., Colo.), Oversight and Government Reform information technology subcommittee ranking member Robin Kelly (D., Ill.), and Oversight and Government Reform government operations subcommittee ranking member Gerald Connolly (D., Va.). —Tom Leithauser, firstname.lastname@example.org