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


By Kanishka Singh

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – White House national security spokesperson John Kirby told reporters on Thursday the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) were looking into an AT&T outage, and that the Federal Communications Commission was in touch with the company.

Kirby said the Department of Commerce faced some disruptions as a result of the outage but those were not “crippling.”

WHY IT IS IMPORTANT

AT&T said three-quarters of its network had been restored after a cellular phone outage on Thursday disrupted calls and text messages for thousands of U.S. users.

The wireless carrier, whose 5G network covers around 290 million people across the United States, grappled with interruptions to its service for several hours.

KEY QUOTES

“But the bottom line is we don’t have all the answers,” Kirby told reporters on Thursday when asked about the cause of the outage.

When asked if government communication was disrupted by AT&T outages, Kirby said: “There was some impact to Commerce (Department) but I don’t know the extent of that, I don’t think it was crippling.” He added that the FirstNet nationwide public safety network was hit but had been fully restored.

U.S. officials have been told that AT&T had no reason to think this was a cybersecurity incident, Kirby said.

CONTEXT

The outage affected people’s ability to reach emergency services by dialing 911, according to online posts by government departments in several U.S. cities.

The FCC said it was investigating the incident, while the U.S. Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, which is a unit of DHS, said it was working with AT&T to understand the cause.

Users of Verizon, T-Mobile and UScellular also faced disruptions, but they were more limited than the AT&T reports.

(Reporting by Kanishka Singh in Washington; Editing by Daniel Wallis and Jonathan Oatis)



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