White House says FBI, Homeland Security Dept looking into AT&T outage

In an announcement that underscored the gravity of the situation, White House national security spokesperson John Kirby enlightened the press that the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) are currently investigating a significant AT&T outage. According to Kirby, the Federal Communications Commission is also maintaining active communication with the company to monitor the situation closely.

The unfolding event revealed that the Department of Commerce experienced some operational disruptions due to the outage. However, Kirby assured that these disruptions were not “crippling,” showcasing a certain level of resilience amidst the challenging circumstances.

Why This Matters

AT&T, a major player in the telecommunications industry, has been working diligently to restore its services after a cellular phone outage left thousands of U.S. users without the ability to make calls or send text messages. The company announced that it had successfully restored three-quarters of its network following the interruption, which significantly impacted its service for several hours. Given AT&T’s extensive coverage, reaching approximately 290 million people across the United States, the ramifications of this outage were felt widely.

Key Statements

Addressing the press, Kirby expressed ongoing concerns, stating, “But the bottom line is we don’t have all the answers,” highlighting the uncertainty surrounding the cause of the outage. He elaborated on the effects of the outage on government communications, noting, “There was some impact to Commerce (Department), but I don’t know the extent of that; I don’t think it was crippling.” Importantly, Kirby also mentioned that the FirstNet nationwide public safety network had experienced issues but reassured that it had been fully restored.

In efforts to calm public and governmental nerves, Kirby revealed that, based on the information provided to U.S. officials, AT&T had no reason to believe that the outage was the result of a cybersecurity incident. This statement aimed to mitigate speculations around potential cyber attacks being the cause of the disruption.

Context and Response

The outage not only affected routine communications but also had a critical impact on people’s ability to reach emergency services by dialing 911, as reported by several U.S. city government departments on various online platforms.

The FCC has taken an active stance by launching an investigation into the incident. Simultaneously, the U.S. Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, a division of DHS, is collaborating with AT&T to delve into the origins and implications of the outage.

While AT&T users bore the brunt of the disruptions, reports also surfaced of service interruptions among users of Verizon, T-Mobile, and UScellular. However, these incidents were described as more limited in scope compared to the expansive coverage issues experienced by AT&T subscribers.

This developing story not only highlights the vulnerabilities inherent in our modern communication networks but also underscores the critical nature of swift and effective response mechanisms to ensure public safety and maintain essential services.

Reporting by Kanishka Singh in Washington; Edited by Daniel Wallis and Jonathan Oatis

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