Suddenly and inexplicably, the Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp, Messenger, and Oculus services disappeared. And it was not a local riot. In a blog post, Downdetector.com, an important monitoring service for online outages, call it the largest global outage ever, with 10.6 million reports from around the world.
Facebook took almost six hours to bring the services back online, albeit slowly at first. Ironically, the outage was so widespread that Facebook had to resort to using Twitter, its rival platform, to receive updates around the world.
The Internet and its outward face (the World Wide Web) is a remarkably fault-tolerant machine. It was designed to be tough, and the web has never completely disappeared. As such, global interrupts like this are Oddly enough.
But they happen. To Google’s shame, several of its services, including Gmail, YouTube, Hangouts, Google Calendar, and Google Maps got disconnected for about an hour in December of last year.
And in June of this year, a cloud computing company that serves clients like The Guardian, The New York Times, Reddit, and The Conversation also went offline.
What caused it?
While the Facebook administration apologized, they gave no clues as to the cause of the outage.
With hacking problems becoming all too common in today’s cybersecurity threat environment, the question arises as to whether the Facebook outage could have been the result of a successful attack. But this seems unlikely.
According to a report by The edge Referring to Facebook’s CTO and VP of Infrastructure, it appears that the problem was probably Facebook’s internal infrastructure.
Facebook engineers were dispatched to one of the company’s data centers in California to work on the problem, meaning they were unable to remotely log into the data center.
The experts have said the interruption could only come from within the company. Facebook engineers have likely made inadvertent changes to network settings, creating a cascading series of problems.
Such events have occurred before, though not to such a catastrophic effect.
However, given the highly confidential way Facebook operates its network, it is not possible to know exactly what happened to the network settings. We will probably never be told.
A domain name server problem
Supporting the explanation of the network configuration is the fact that the error messages that appeared when people tried to contact facebook.com and whatsapp.com indicated that it was a DNS problem. So the websites still existed, but they couldn’t be accessed.
DNS means Domain name server and is described as the “Internet phone book”. It translates the domain names read by us into encrypted Internet addresses (IP addresses) for computers to read.
When you enter a domain name such as “facebook.com” or “whatsapp.com” in your browser, the domain name server and the corresponding encrypted internet address, the IP, is called.
When everything works as it should, the user connects to the requested domain. Based on the evidence obtained from expert sources close to Facebook, it seems highly unlikely that the outage was caused by an outside attack.
A whistleblower speaks
The Facebook outage occurred just hours after the US-based 60 Minutes show. incendiary interview with former Facebook employee and whistleblower, 37-year-old Harvard graduate Frances Haugen.
In a complaint to the federal police and in the interview, Haugen alleges Facebook’s Instagram app is hurting teenage girls, and Facebook’s own research indicates that the company “amplifies hatred, misinformation and political unrest, but the company hides what it knows.”
To back up the allegations, Haugen shared more than 10,000 pages of internal documentation with the US Securities and Exchange Commission, all pretty damning stuff. She said:
What I saw on Facebook over and over again was that there were conflicts of interest between what was good for the public and what was good for Facebook, and Facebook time and time again chose to optimize for its own interests, such as making more money.
Given the timing of the interview and the global disruption from Facebook, it’s natural to wonder if the two events are connected. However, in the absence of definitive evidence to support this theory, a causal link between the two events has not been established.
But considering the seriousness of Haugen’s allegations and the weight of objective evidence in the form of thousands of internal documents, it’s clear that further investigation is warranted.
Facebook has around 2,890 million monthly active users and a market capitalization of $ 1.21 trillion. From any point of view, it is a large and powerful company with great influence. Now is the time to shed light on your ethics, or lack thereof.
Hopefully, there will be no more interruptions to slow down this process.