Instagram, Facebook and Facebook Messenger go down for some users for the second time in a week | #cybersecurity | #cyberattack


Instagram, Facebook and Messenger went again on Friday night for some users for the second time in a week.

The Friday outage occurred just days after the social networking giant bundled a server update that led to a global outage for more than seven hours, leading to calls from politicians for the company’s monopoly to be broken up.

Web monitoring group Downdetector showed there were more than 32,000 incidents of people reporting issues with Instagram on Friday from around 7pm GMT.

A smaller number of people, around 2,000 in both the UK and the US, reported they were unable to access Facebook, with the reports also coming in at around 7pm.  

Some users reported that the social media platforms were back up and running by around 8pm GMT, with Facebook saying the issue was fixed at 10pm GMT.

Hundreds of millions of people were unable to access Facebook, Instagram or WhatsApp for more than zeven hours on Monday, underscoring the world’s reliance on platforms owned by the Silicon Valley giant. 

Pictured: A map of the UK showing where people reported they had lost access to Facebook owned social media platforms including Facebook and Instagram 

Pictured: A map of the US showing where the outages were reported on Downdetector

Facebook acknowledged the outage at around 8:20pm, writing on Twitter: ‘We’re aware that some people are having trouble accessing our apps and products. We’re working to get things back to normal as quickly as possible and we apologize for any inconvenience.’

Instagram’s communications Twitter account write: ‘We know some of you may be having some issues using Instagram right now. We’re so sorry and are working as quickly as possible to fix.’

On Twitter, the hashtag #Instagramisdown was becoming increasingly popular on Friday after it was used on Monday as people’s go-to during the previous outage. 

Facebook acknowledged the issue at around 8:20pm, writing on Twitter: ‘We’re aware that some people are having trouble accessing our apps and products. 

‘We’re working to get things back to normal as quickly as possible and we apologize for any inconvenience.’  

Instagram’s communications Twitter account added: ‘We know some of you may be having some issues using Instagram right now. We’re so sorry and are working as quickly as possible to fix.’ 

Downdetector only tracks outages by collating status reports from a series of sources, including user-submitted errors on its platform. The outage might have affected a larger number of users. 

Facebook did not immediately respond to a request for comment from Reuters. 

Web monitoring group Downdetector showed there were more than 32,000 incidents of people reporting issues with Instagram on Friday at around 7pm GMT 

On Downdetector, fewer users reported an outage on Facebook, with around 1,700 people saying they were having trouble accessing the platform

As was the case on Monday, people were quick to post memes on Twitter about the Facebook platforms going down on Friday night.

Many called for the company to fix their apps, while others posted variations on the themes of waiting for them to come back online for them.

Others on Twitter noted how their preferred app was still functioning, poking fun at those who tend to use Facebook or Instagram. 

‘Get it together Zuckerberg’ one person wrote, along with a meme captioned ‘Fix It’. Another wrote: ‘Waiting for Instagram to get restored’ along with pictures of Mr Bean standing in a field checking his watch. 

The latest outage occurs four days after Facebook suffered an error during a routine maintenance on its network of data centres that caused a global collapse.  

Facebook saw an estimated $100million in lost revenue, and the outage was caused when a faulty update that disconnected its servers from the internet, meaning engineers had to travel to its Santa Clara data center to fix the glitch in-person.

It blocked access to apps for billions of users of Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp, further intensifying weeks of scrutiny for the nearly $1 trillion company. 

In a blog post apologising for the outage, Santosh Janardhan, Facebook’s Vice President of Engineering and Infrastructure, said the collapse also impacted many of Facebook’s internal tools and systems that it uses in its day-to-day operations, making it harder to solve the issue.

As was the case on Monday, people were quick to post memes on Twitter (pictured) about the Facebook platforms going down on Friday night

‘Our engineering teams have learned that configuration changes on the backbone routers that coordinate network traffic between our data centres caused issues that interrupted this communication,’ Janardhan wrote in the blog post. 

‘This disruption to network traffic had a cascading effect on the way our data centres communicate, bringing our services to a halt.’ 

The outage on Monday was the largest Downdetector had ever seen and blocked access to apps for billions of users of Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp. 

It also came just hours after former employee whistleblower Frances Haugen went public with how the company puts profits above morals, and a day before her testimony in front of Congress.

Haugen testified on the US’ Capitol Hill after she leaked reams of internal research to authorities and The Wall Street Journal, which has fueled one of Facebook’s most serious crises yet.

‘I believe that Facebook’s products harm children, stoke division and weaken our democracy,’ Haugen told a Senate panel.

‘Congressional action is needed. They won’t solve this crisis without your help,’ she added.

Frances Haugen on Tuesday appeared before Congress to discuss the workings of Facebook. She suggested a government entity be created to regulate Facebook during the scathing Senate hearing

Mark Zuckerberg on Tuesday evening defended his company, saying it was ‘frustrating’ to see a ‘false picture’ of Facebook being painted by Haugen

In her testimony, she emphasized the power held by a service that is tightly woven into the daily lives of billions of users.

She also noted the risks that the social media giant’s platforms are fueling a contagion of eating disorders, body-shaming and self-dissatisfaction that is particularly dangerous for young people.

‘There are going to be women walking around this planet in 60 years with brittle bones because of the choices that Facebook made around emphasizing profit today,’ she said, referring to the impact of eating disorders.

Facebook pushed back hard against the Journal stories underpinned by the voluminous internal studies that Haugen leaked, and the company fiercely objected to her testimony on Tuesday.

A Facebook statement called her ‘a former product manager who worked at the company for less than two years, had no direct reports, never attended a decision-point meeting with C-level executives.’

‘We don’t agree with her characterization of the many issues she testified about,’ said the statement from Lena Pietsch, director of policy communications.

‘It’s been 25 years since the rules for the internet have been updated… it is time for Congress to act,’ she said, echoing Facebook’s previous position that regulation is the responsibility of lawmakers, not private companies.

Haugen, a 37-year-old data scientist from Iowa who has worked for companies including Google and Pinterest, delivered hours of testimony that showed a developed understanding of Facebook’s mentality.

‘A lot of the changes I’m talking about are not going to make Facebook an unprofitable company,’ she said. ‘It just won’t be a ludicrously profitable company like it is today.’

She returned repeatedly to the idea that Facebook is a platform where human behavior was being manipulated to keep people on the app and engaged.

Haugen noted that she believed Facebook was not intrinsically bad, but rather needed external intervention to guide it away from a place that breeds toxicity.

Experts were uncertain that the revelations from Haugen’s testimony would serve to end years of partisan squabbles on the matter.

‘It’s possible, but far from assured, that today’s hearing will mark a real inflection point,’ said Paul Barrett, deputy director of New York University’s Stern Center for Business and Human Rights.   

Why DID Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger go down on Monday?   

Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp were all brought down for almost seven hours on Monday in a massive global outage.

Problems began at around 16:45 BST (11:45 ET), leaving users unable to access the three platforms, as well as Facebook Messenger and Oculus, for the rest of the evening. 

Facebook, which owns all the services, has blamed the outage on a bungled server update and insists it was not an attack from outside the company.

The US tech giant said the problem was caused by a faulty update that was sent to its core servers, which effectively disconnected them from the internet. 

But what exactly went wrong and why did it take more almost seven hours to fix? Here is MailOnline’s breakdown of the issue…

Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp were all brought down for almost seven hours yesterday in a massive global outage. The US tech giant said the problem was caused by a faulty update that was sent to its core servers, which effectively disconnected them from the internet

A Facebook staff member reportedly accidentally deleted large sections of the code (pictured) which keeps the website online

WHAT IS THE DOMAIN NAME SYSTEM AND HOW DOES IT WORK? 

The Domain Name System, or DNS, is the directory of the internet.

Whenever you click on a link, send an email, open a mobile app, often one of the first things that has to happen is your device needs to look up the address of a domain. 

There are two sides of the DNS network: the authoritative side, ie webpages and other content, and the resolver side, devices that are trying to access this content.

Every domain needs to have an authoritative DNS provider, servers which store DNS records. Amazon, Cloudflare and Google are among the bigger names in authoritative DNS server provision. 

On the other side of the DNS system are resolvers. Every device that connects to the Internet needs a DNS resolver. 

By default, these resolvers are automatically set by whatever network you’re connecting to. 

So, for most Internet users, when they connect to an ISP, or a WiFi hot spot, or a mobile network, the network operator will dictate what DNS resolver to use.

The problem is that these DNS services are often slow and don’t respect your privacy. 

What many Internet users don’t realise is that even if you’re visiting a website that is encrypted, indicated by the green padlock in your browser’s address bar, that doesn’t keep your DNS resolver from knowing the identity of all the sites you visit. 

That means, by default, your ISP, every WiFi network you’ve connected to, and your mobile network provider have a list of every site you’ve visited while using them. 

Why did Facebook go offline?

Facebook issued a statement saying the cause of the problem was a configuration change to the company’s ‘backbone routers’, which coordinate network traffic between the tech giant’s data centres.

‘This disruption to network traffic had a cascading effect on the way our data centers communicate, bringing our services to a halt,’ the statement said.

Web security firm CloudFlare offered more details about what happened, revealing that Facebook had effectively vanished from the internet.

The social media company made a series of updates to its border gateway protocol (BGP), CloudFlare’s chief technology officer John Graham-Cunningham said, causing it to ‘disappear’. 

The BGP allows for the exchange of routing information on the internet and takes people to the websites they want to access.

It is essentially the roadmap that transports you to the location of each website – known as the Domain Name System (DNS) – or its IP address.

As a consequence of the BGP problems, it meant DNS resolvers all over the world stopped resolving their domain names.

Why were Instagram, WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger also down?

It wasn’t just Facebook that went offline – its associated services Instagram, WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger were affected, too. Some people also reported issues with Facebook’s virtual reality headset platform, Oculus.

This is because the tech giant has a centralised, single back end for all of its products.

Facebook runs its own systems through the same servers, meaning everything needed to fix the problem – from digital engineering tools to messaging services, even key-fob door locks – was also taken offline. 

Matthew Hodgson, co-founder and CEO of Element and Technical Co-founder of Matrix, said the outage illustrated the advantage of having a ‘more reliable’ decentralised system that doesn’t put ‘all the eggs in one basket’.

‘There’s no single point of failure so they can withstand significant disruption and still keep people and businesses communicating,’ he added. 

It wasn’t just Facebook that went offline – its associated services Instagram, WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger were affected, too. Some people also reported issues with Facebook’s virtual reality headset platform, Oculus

How many people were affected?  

Downdetector, which tracks outages, said it was the biggest failure it has ever seen, with 10.6 million problem reports around the world.

In total, Facebook has 2.9 billion monthly active users.

The issues started at 16:44 BST (11:44 ET), with nearly 80,000 reports for WhatsApp and more than 50,000 for Facebook, according to DownDetector.

From around 22:30 BST (17:30 ET), some users were reporting that they were able to access the four platforms once again. However, Facebook did not work again for many people until at least an hour after that.

WhatsApp said it was back up at running ‘at 100 per cent’ as of 3:30 BST (22:30 ET) this morning. 

Could it have been a cyber attack?

Interestingly, Facebook’s statement is carefully written and doesn’t rule out foul play. 

That being said, the chances of it being an external cyber attack seem unlikely.

A massive denial-of-service hack that could overwhelm one of the world’s most popular sites would require either coordination among powerful criminal groups or a very innovative technique.

Sabotage by an insider, however, would be theoretically possible, according to tech experts.

What’s also eye-opening is that the outage hampered Facebook’s ability to address the problem, because it took down internal tools needed to fix it.

This meant the issue lasted for nearly seven hours, which is highly unusual.  

 

Users around the world reported problems with Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp on Downdetector

RECENT FACEBOOK OUTAGES 

Last month, a technical issue with Facebook-owned Instagram caused an outage that plagued users around the world for 16 hours.

Problems started just after 8am on Thursday. About 18 hours later, at 2am on Friday, Instagram announced the problem had been fixed.

However, the last time Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp went down at the same time was in June. 

More than a thousand people in countries including the United States, Morocco, Mexico, Bolivia and Brazil reported outages.

There were also two Facebook platform outages in March, with Instagram down on March 30, and all three down on March 19. 

It compounded a difficult week for Facebook, which has faced accusations of easing up on efforts to stop misinformation, allowing hate to be magnified on its platforms and beidang aware that Instagram can harm teenage girls’ mental health.  

The disruption also occurred just 24 hours after a former Facebook employee gave an interview to CBS News after leaking documents about the social network.

Whistleblower Frances Haugen, who is scheduled to testify before a Senate subcommittee this week, said the company had prioritised ‘growth over safety’.  

Facebook insisted it was ‘just not true’ to suggest the company encouraged bad content or did nothing in response. 

Cybersecurity specialist Jake Moore said: ‘It is quite interesting that Facebook’s statement has not ruled out foul play. 

‘Like the locks on a bank safe, the money inside is only as secure as the person with the keys – cybersecurity is as much about a company’s own internal security procedures as it is about fending off outsider attacks.’

He reiterated that it was ‘not due to an external cyber attack’ because web blackouts more often originate from an undiscovered software bug or human error.

So was it a mistake by someone within Facebook?

There’s every chance it could have been an accident rather than an intentional act of sabotage. 

It has been claimed that a Facebook staff member may have accidentally deleted large sections of the code which keeps the website online. 

Facebook said its engineering teams had identified ‘configuration changes’ to its backbone routers that brought its services to a halt.

The company said these changes caused a disruption to network traffic and blocked communication between its data centres. Employees’ work passes and email were also reportedly affected by the internal issue. 

Why did it take so long to resolve the problem?

When Facebook’s platforms went offline, engineers rushed to the company’s data centres to reset the servers manually, only to find they couldn’t get inside.

New York Times’ technology reporter Sheera Frenkel told BBC’s Today programme this was part of the reason it took so long to fix the issue.

‘The people trying to figure out what this problem was couldn’t even physically get into the building’ to work out what had gone wrong, she said.

To make matters worse, one insider claimed the outage was further exacerbated because large numbers of staff are still working from home in the wake of Covid, meaning it took longer for them to get to the data centres. 

Downdetector, which tracks outages, said it was the biggest failure it has ever seen, with 10.6 million problem reports around the world. Pictured, the issues starting at 16:44 BST (11:44 ET)

Engineers were rushed to the company’s data centres in Santa Clara, California (pictured), to reset the servers manually

Facebook has not yet gone into much detail about how the issue was finally fixed but it is understood that engineers had to manually reset the servers where the problem originated.

Software testing expert, Adam Leon Smith of BCS, The Chartered Institute for IT, said: ‘It is unlikely the issues were directly caused by people working from home, however it is quite possible that it took so long to restore the service because of reduced staffing within the data centre.

‘This would compound the problem because the nature of the failure meant that remote access to the data centre was also unavailable.’

How much did the outage cost?

During the blackout, Facebook shares plunged by five per cent, wiping an estimated $7 billion (£5 million) off founder Mark Zuckerberg’s personal fortune. 

The website Fortune also estimated that seven hours of downtime could have cost the company up to $100 million (£73 million) in lost ad revenue.

But it’s not just Facebook which will have lost out. 

Businesses who rely on its services are also likely to have lost huge sums of money, although so far there have not been any cost estimates for exactly how much.

NetBlocks, which tracks internet outages and their impact, estimates that the outage cost the global economy $160 million (£117 million). 

What are the chances of it happening again?

The huge global outage Facebook experienced is a fairly uncommon one, although there’s not a lot the company can do to avoid a similar situation because of its centralised back end system.

Along with the Fastly outage in June – caused by a single customer changing their settings – and Cloudflare going offline in 2020, it shows the problem of having a single point of failure for a huge number of services that people use.

There are currently no obvious solutions to this, but this latest outage is likely to reignite the debate around internet infrastructure.

For many individuals and businesses too, the incident showed just how much they depend on Facebook and its services not just to communicate, but also to log in to other platforms.

In response, people have been encouraged to consider using other credentials beyond their Facebook log-in details to access other online services.



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