Hundreds of millions of people were unable to access Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp for more than six hours on Monday, underscoring the world’s reliance on platforms operated by the Silicon Valley giant.
In an apologetic blog post, Santosh Janardhan, Facebook’s vice president of infrastructure, said that “configuration changes to the backbone routers that coordinate network traffic between our data centers created issues that disrupted that communication”. Facebook announced the outage on Tuesday was “caused” not by malicious activity but by a mistake we made ourselves. “
Can you explain this in plain English?
Cyber experts believe the problem comes down to something called BGP or Border Gateway Protocol – the system the Internet uses to choose the fastest route for moving packets of information.
Sami Slim from the data center Rum company Telehouse compared BGP to “the internet equivalent of air traffic control”.
Just like air traffic controllers sometimes make changes to flight plans. “Facebook has updated these routes,” said Slim.
But this update contained a critical flaw.
It’s not yet clear how or why, but I’m still using Facebook’s routers Essentially a message sent to the internet announcing that the company’s servers no longer exist.
Why did it take so long to fix the problem?
Experts say Facebook’s technical infrastructure is unusually dependent on its own systems – and that turned out to be catastrophic on Monday.
After Facebook sent the fateful routing update, its engineers were locked out of the system in order to communicate that the update has, in fact, been a bug. So they couldn’t fix the problem.
“It’s usually good not to put all your eggs in one basket,” said Pierre Bonis of AFNIC, the association that manages domain names in France.
“For security reasons, Facebook had to concentrate its infrastructure very much,” he said.
“That streamlines things on a daily basis – but because everything is in the same place, if the place has a problem, nothing works. “
One of the side effects of the shutdown was that some Facebook employees couldn’t even enter their buildings because their security badges were no longer working, which further slowed the response.
Is that unprecedented ?
Breakdowns in social media are not uncommon: there were more than 80 on Instagram alone in the US last year, according to website builder ToolTester.
The Facebook breakdown however, this week was rare in its length and extent.
There is also a precedent for BGP interference, which is at the root of a social media shutdown.
When a Pakistani internet service provider tried to block YouTube from private users in 2008, the global website was inadvertently shut down for several hours. < / p>
And the impact of the outage?
Between Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger, “billions of users are affected by the services being completely offline,” said the Downdetector tracking Service.
Facebook, which has fallen nearly five percent in stake, has insisted that there is “no evidence that user data has been compromised by this downtime”.
But although it is only Lasted a few hours, the effects of the shutdown were profound
Fa cebook accounts are also often used to log into other websites that are having additional problems due to the company’s technical collapse.
Meanwhile, competing instant messaging services reported that they had not benefited from the fact that WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger were down.
Telegram rose from the 56th most downloaded free app in the United States to the fifth, according to surveillance firm SensorTower, while Signal tweeted that “millions” of new users had joined .
And, among the stranger side effects, there were several domain name registries Facebook.com as being for sale.
“There has never been no reason to believe that Facebook.com is actually selling this but it’s fun to see how many billions of dollars it could make in the open market, “said cybersecurity expert Brian Krebs.