On October 4, 2021, anyone using Facebook, WhatsApp, and Instagram probably thought there was something wrong with their internet connection or device. Sending apps and liking photos was suddenly no longer possible. Facebook employees couldn’t work, couldn’t access their internal company messages, and also had trouble getting into their workplace because their badges weren’t working. The outage lasted all night, forcing billions of users to find their entertainment elsewhere.
What went wrong?
Around 6:00 PM our time, internet traffic to Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp came to a standstill and eventually came to a complete standstill. Millions of confused internet users around the world were confronted with unresponsive Facebook feeds, Instagram notifications such as ‘Could not deliver’ and WhatsApp notifications such as ‘Some messages not sent. Facebook, WhatsApp and Instagram all tweeted to be “aware” of the issues and Facebook sincerely apologized for the inconvenience caused.
Soon there were all kinds of rumours about the cause of the problems. On Twitter, it rained messages, for example from IT experts with differing opinions about how serious this is and whether it is a possible cyber attack or human error. It would have gone wrong when updating the so-called Border Gateway Protocol (BGP), which made it impossible for computers worldwide to find Facebook.
According to J.Eckert, the situation is dire: “This Facebook outage is a MUCH bigger problem than I think some realize or want to admit. Their entire DNS record has been erased on all of the Internet’s root servers. Either the most sophisticated and coordinated hack of all time OR the biggest human error ever.”
Facebook has since released a statement saying that the problem was caused by a router that controls network traffic between their data centres. They also state that they believe this was caused by a configuration error. Facebook says no evidence has been found that user data has been compromised.
The outage caused users to flock to find other ways to express themselves or connect with friends and family. Twitter welcomed the wave of users with the tweet “hello literally everyone”. In addition, people started looking for alternatives to WhatsApp. KPN suddenly saw an increase in SMS traffic just after the outage started.
As it stands, the financial loss to Mark Zuckerberg from the incident is estimated at billions. Facebook shares are falling sharply.
Facebook under fire
Facebook, the owner of WhatsApp and Instagram, is a social media giant that has paved the way for social networking and innovation in this area. It has connected billions of people around the world. The company has been under scrutiny in recent years, especially after information security and privacy scandals. Another story came out yesterday from whistleblower Frances Haugen and there was considerable criticism of the way Facebook had played a role in organizing the storming of the Capitol. There was also a worldwide outage yesterday. It is not the first time the company has had a malfunction, but compared to the famous incident in 2008 this is by far the worst since then.
Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp are now working properly again. An investigation will have to reveal exactly what happened.
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