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Communications Government

FCC Won't Release DDoS Logs, And Will Probably Honor Fake Comments (zdnet.com) 83

An anonymous reader quotes ZDNet on the alleged denial of service attack which blocked comments supporting net neutrality. In a ZDNet interview, FCC chief information officer David Bray said that the agency would not release the logs, in part because the logs contain private information, such as IP addresses. In unprinted remarks, he said that the logs amounted to about 1 gigabyte per hour during the alleged attack... The log files showed that non-human [and cloud-based] bots submitted a flood of comments using the FCC's API. The bot that submitted these comments sparked the massive uptick in internet traffic on the FCC by using the public API as a vehicle...

Bray's comments further corroborate a ZDNet report (and others) that showed unknown anti-net neutrality spammers were behind the posting of hundreds of thousands of the same messages to the FCC's website using people's names and addresses without their consent -- a so-called "astroturfing" technique -- in an apparent attempt to influence the results of a public solicitation for feedback on net neutrality. Speaking to reporters last week, FCC chairman Ajit Pai hinted that the agency would likely honor those astroturfed comments, nonetheless.

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FCC Won't Release DDoS Logs, And Will Probably Honor Fake Comments

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  • Post Truth (Score:5, Insightful)

    by GWXerog ( 3151863 ) on Sunday May 21, 2017 @03:47PM (#54460133)
    Is this the post-truth world that I keep hearing about?
    • No, it definitely isn't.

      • Re:Post Truth (Score:5, Insightful)

        by ShanghaiBill ( 739463 ) on Sunday May 21, 2017 @05:56PM (#54460491)

        The decision against NN had already been made, and the "public comments" were just political theater. So it doesn't really matter if they were DDOSed, since they would have had no effect either way.

        • by Anonymous Coward

          Just like every other invitation for comment printed in the register. The requirement to ask for comment is in law. It doesn't change the fact that the decision is already made.

        • by Maritz ( 1829006 )
          Yeah. Once you've put a fox in the hen house there's basically fuck all you can do other than resign yourself to the shitstorm.
    • by Rob Y. ( 110975 )

      I voted for a wall, and all I got were a few ISP monopolies that are free to sell my browsing history. Good job, folks!

  • Hack Job (Score:5, Insightful)

    by mbone ( 558574 ) on Sunday May 21, 2017 @03:49PM (#54460135)

    Speaking to reporters last week, FCC chairman Ajit Pai hinted that the agency would likely honor those astroturfed comments, nonetheless.

    Why not? He presumably paid good money for them.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      The only way to win is to cheat.

      The rules are only there to stop good people from winning.

    • Re:Hack Job (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Cyberpunk Reality ( 4231325 ) on Sunday May 21, 2017 @05:48PM (#54460473)
      Sooner or later, the American public is going to stop honoring their fake democracy. Then we'll be in for some real interesting times.
      • by mishehu ( 712452 )
        I think we got a long way to go before we reach that point. Mostly because those with the means to do anything are purposely overworked.
        • by Anonymous Coward

          But you have to admit seeing everyone he loves on fire would serve as a pretty good warning that maybe Pai needs to start listening to the population instead of his conflict of interest.

        • by jmccue ( 834797 )

          Not with the US version of "bread and circuses", now people can get entertainment on their cell phones 24/7 and never have to care what is really going on around them. I almost wonder if the "Net Neutrality" fight is only to ensure this entertainment gets prioritized to keep people entertained without having to spend real money on bandwidth improvements. This way most people will will not care what is done in their country.

    • You aren't the only that thought of that.
    • by tlhIngan ( 30335 )

      Speaking to reporters last week, FCC chairman Ajit Pai hinted that the agency would likely honor those astroturfed comments, nonetheless.

      Why not? He presumably paid good money for them.

      Well, the more obvious reason is if you're counting comments for and against net neutrality, the astroturf means the count is solidly against.

      Think about it - if the DDoS filed 1 billion spammed's comments against it, what hope is there for the pro side that filed proper comments?

      Now the FCC can claim that that people we

  • by Anonymous Coward

    as long as they support the narrative of someone in power.

    Gee, where have I recently saw that behavior? It's coming to me...

    Personally, I hope there is a special place in hell for people like this.

  • Maybe ... (Score:5, Funny)

    by PPH ( 736903 ) on Sunday May 21, 2017 @03:53PM (#54460155)

    ... we could get the Russians to grab a copy of the logs for us.

    • by ebvwfbw ( 864834 )

      ... we could get the Russians to grab a copy of the logs for us.

      Nah, That's so 2016. Just as the Chinese. Just send 'em $5 and they'll pop it right in the mail to you.

  • Anonymize IPs (Score:5, Informative)

    by ark1 ( 873448 ) on Sunday May 21, 2017 @04:08PM (#54460203)
    Anonymizing IPs is rather simple. Poor excuse.
    • Oh come now... we all know that

      sed -i 's/[0-9]{3}\.[0-9]{3}\.[0-9]{3}/nnn\.nnn\.nnn/g' *

      is one of the trickiest command line operations someone can do. I mean, it's right up there with

      "grep -Rne '([0-9]{3}\.){2}[0-9]{3}' *"

      *no, I haven't actually tested these...

  • by ArchieBunker ( 132337 ) on Sunday May 21, 2017 @04:14PM (#54460227) Homepage

    Back when Howard Stern was their main focus they counted every form letter as a unique complaint. So those fringe religious groups would send in a million identical letters and the FCC would count one million complaints.

    • by Hentes ( 2461350 )

      It's not a vote though. At most you can say that they have an obligation to read all the comments. Which is very easy to promise when you get a bunch of identical letters, just read the first one and you've read all million.

      • by volkris ( 694 )


        It's really unfortunate that some interest groups and media outlets have been giving people the impression that regulatory proceedings--and this comment period was even BEFORE the proceedings were kicked off--were democratic processes, with the numbers of comments directly influencing the outcomes.

        The FCC is charged with implementing the laws passed by Congress. The democratic portion of the process is there. The rest of the regulatory process is just about making sure the ts are crossed.

        • by kqs ( 1038910 ) on Sunday May 21, 2017 @07:15PM (#54460687)

          Except that under Obama, the FCC was all set to destroy NN until a large public outcry changed their mind. So they put ISPs under Title II instead, completely reversing course.

          So I think you mean "the comments are always ignored when one party is in power. The other party does sometimes listen to public comments."

          If you vote for politicians who ignore you, then this is on you. Sadly, the rest of us are also stuck.

          • by volkris ( 694 )

            Under Obama (and remember, the FCC is supposed to be independent of the president) the FCC supported NN in general. What actions it decided to take were in favor of the policy, not against it, and they only changed to Title II after courts pointed out that they otherwise lacked authority to make those regulations.

            I mean, they probably lacked authority to change to Title II as well, but at least we can say that without Title II they definitely didn't have it.

            Regulatory bodies are bound by law, not by public

    • by Anonymous Coward

      They count every single bit of data that favors their bias, and reject the rest.

      Most people do this. People with a vested interest, like Pai, do this exactly as much as they can get away with, and just a bit more.

    • Back when Howard Stern was their main focus they counted every form letter as a unique complaint. So those fringe religious groups would send in a million identical letters and the FCC would count one million complaints.

      Which it was, sending a form letter that endorses a point of view is a unique complaint. It's not an original complaint, and you may want to way the fact that it takes a lot less effort to send a form letter than to write an original complain, but each person who send in one of those letters intended to complain.

      This, however, is fundamentally different. Those hundreds of thousands of identical comments are really only one comment, the comment of the person who wrote the bot, that's not to mention the peopl

      • How hard would it be to use a generative autoencoding NN to write unique complaints? We could train the network with some human written samples, and then turn it loose to generate millions more using the same basic arguments, but with different wording. Then the FCC could implement an adversarial network [wikipedia.org] to read and analyse the letters. We could automate democracy.

        • this seems like a lot of work; just inject typos so that they hash differently. it's not like anyone is actually reading them.

          as for the long run, it is easily proven by syllogism that democracy is already being automated through algorithmic traders. just sit tight and wait.

        • Why a NN? We still have good old generative grammars, don't we?
          • Why a NN?

            Because NNs are way cooler.
            You aren't going to impress the chicks by saying you know how to use a Markov Chain.

  • > FCC chairman Ajit Pai hinted that the agency would likely honor those astroturfed comments
    But since he previously said that "what matters most are the quality of the comments, not the quantity" [1], so we're fine, right, right?

    [1] https://consumerist.com/2017/0... [consumerist.com]
  • Mr. Pai is essentially saying that DDOSing and astroturfing is OK. This may be the wrong message to send.
    • by arth1 ( 260657 ) on Sunday May 21, 2017 @04:59PM (#54460337) Homepage Journal

      I believe his idea is that ISPs should be able to charge extra for DDOSing and astroturfing, and then it's okay. Whether you're the perp or the victim.

    • by volkris ( 694 )

      It's more that Mr. Pai is correctly pointing out that DDOSing and astroturfing have nothing to do with the regulatory process.

      The FCC has to implement the laws passed by Congress and the president, not make up its own laws based on counts of comments coming in to the agency. The commissioners abide by the law, whether the comments want them to or not.

      So yeah, it stinks that people screwed with their comment submission forms, but it's such a minor deal that protection of the private information contained wit

  • by JaneTheIgnorantSlut ( 1265300 ) on Sunday May 21, 2017 @04:51PM (#54460317)
    Seems to me that this would ensure that the comment mechanism is useless.
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      It seems very useful to me. The FCC wants to get rid of net neutrality. A bunch of anti-net neutrality bots post comments. The FCC says, "look at all these comments supporting us!" The rules then passed are very "popular" and sufficiently express the "views" of the American people.

      It would only be useless if the FCC cared what you think.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      Seems to me that this would ensure that the comment mechanism is useless.

      That's the intent of astroturfing: either the astroturfed anti-net neutrality comments get accepted as valid and influence the decision making process, or the public api is deemed useless and abandoned - which will also damage the perceived reliability of other methods that citizens can use, like emails (can be automatically sent), paper mail (form letters can be sent on behalf of citizens), and web forms (can be filled out via automated tools like selenium).

      With comments from citizens suppressed, it's back

    • Couldn't agree more. I see a lot of agencies doing this. One agency just spent a whole bunch of money to buy a bunch of appliance. Then was upset when she realized they all had to be secure and compliant with Federal regulations. We're talking probably a dozen or so physical machines. In the past machines like that were usually $30K a pop, and that was 20 years ago. I bet these were more like $50K pop and all to give an API that probably nobody will use. Seems to be the latest fad, just like Google boxes we

  • by volkris ( 694 ) on Sunday May 21, 2017 @04:58PM (#54460331)

    In regulatory processes of the United States, regulatory bodies are charged with implementing the laws passed by Congress and the president. THAT's where the democratic part of the process is, where vote counts matter.

    The regulatory process goes on to seek comments not as a way of redoing the legislative process, but just to make sure all the Ts have been crossed. For every issue brought up in comments (NOT for every comment) the agency has to justify its position.

    In short, in the regulatory processes of the US, a million comments with the same concern represent one concern. Pushes by special interests and news organizations to have people submit the same perspective over and over again merely waste governmental resources as workers have to remove the duplicate comments.

    Slashdot should do a better job of informing readers about how the regulatory process works. It's misleading to present this story as if the numbers of comments matter directly or to talk about "honoring" fake comments.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Actually, some of us have actually existed prior to this particular instant in time. During our time in existence we have experienced FCC officials citing the number of comments received concerning some issues as justification for particular actions. Also, we have experienced situations where the sheer numbers led people to the realization of what is mainstream thus silencing any serious accusations of "radical" or "fringe" by opponents of a view. So you did use "directly" as a weasel word but your core poi

      • by volkris ( 694 ) on Sunday May 21, 2017 @07:27PM (#54460707)

        Commissioners are free to cite numbers in their press releases, but in terms of the actual substance and legality of regulations, the notice and comment procedure doesn't have much to do with numbers. The regulator has to address issues whether they be brought be one person or a thousand.

        You can see this in action by pulling up final rules as published in the Federal Register, which is what individuals and companies have to adhere to. In such a publication the regulator goes through addressing concerns regardless of the number of people who submitted each concern.

        For example, here's the recent final rule on Alaska subsistence hunting. Notice that the regulator broke out eighteen individual issues brought up in comments, regardless of how many people may have provided each.
        https://www.federalregister.go... [federalregister.gov]

        (Yes, I'm belaboring the point to stress it)

        It's no weasel word to say that blasting redundant comments at the FCC's webpage doesn't do anything directly. Instead, that captures how US regulatory processes actually work. And heck, it serves as a reminder that Congress, not the regulator, is the place to go to push for change. If regulators were free to make their own laws based on things like website submission counts, that would be a bad thing.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Just hack a database of Comcast, AT&T, Verizon employees and flood the system with pro-net neutrality comments.

  • If the bot's (or bots') comments are to be kept, then is it not reasonable that everyone (legal U.S. citizens) should be able to use a bot to post comments to the FCC?

    I mean, if they allow one man's set of bot comments then, legally, don't they have to accept everybody's bots' comments?
    If they don't, are they infringing freedom of speech?

  • by Anonymous Coward

    How is this not being investigated as massive fraud and identity theft?

  • If he does accept the DDoS comments... roll on the eternal DDoS against the FCC, which will have shown that kind of behavior is completely acceptable to them.

  • by Opportunist ( 166417 ) on Monday May 22, 2017 @02:01AM (#54461459)

    DDoSing and astroturfing the FCC is fair game, did I get that right?

    A totally unrelated question, is that LOIC thingamajig still operational?

  • I wouldn't be so quick to say he'll 'honor' theses comments; his mind is made up, and his decisions will be the same, regardless. Unfortunately, this gives them an excuse.
  • If there's personal information, send those portions through a one-way hash and release the result. Then we can see activity-level of IP addresses or whatever else without knowing their actual value. This is pretty basic stuff, c'mon.
  • "Speaking to reporters last week, FCC chairman Ajit Pai hinted that the agency would likely honor those astroturfed comments, nonetheless."

    Of course...they support his position.

Programmers do it bit by bit.