Just before noon today on the 4th, October 2021, social media users started reporting error messages when trying to access Facebook, WhatsApp, Messenger, Instagram social platform.
According to Downdetector website, the real-time monitor for websites activities and traffics results documented tracks of outage reports on Facebook, Instagram, Messenger, Oculus, WhatsApp sites.
Almost an hour later, Facebook got to post a tweet saying “We are experiencing networking issues,” and the “team” at work” are working as fast as possible” mostly, “to debug and restore as fast as possible.”
What Caused the Outage?
According to the Internet analyst, Mr. Doug Madory, he stated that Facebook outage might have caused by the Domain Name System (DNS) route withdrawals. The withdrawal could have led to the prevention of the social media browsers from properly translating the web addresses into IP addresses.
According to the Facebook security team, it was very unlikely that the outage was as a result of a cyberattack. The reason the Facebook security team provided was that the technology that is used to design the Facebook, WhatsApp, Messenger, Instagram, Oculus Application systems are all different. Therefore, it makes it very unlikely and difficult for one person to affect all the social media platforms at once.
But, I asked myself, what if it was a group of people who attacked all the social media platforms?
Anyway, according to some of the concerned users, they provided some of their thoughts regarding the Facebook outage. some of the thought were:
This Facebook outage might cause the company about US$330. According to Facebook sales, it is understood that it usually makes around US$330 million a day from advertising sales. This amount could have been lost because of the business has been completely disabled by the blackout.
What is a DNS Error?
Let us imagine this first: Every time you type in the url Facebook dot com on any search browser, what happens is that the server contacts the DNS server. Think of the DNS server as a directory that hosts the World Wide Web, that is www. The DNS server hosts myriads of IP addresses that are also connected to vast servers.
Now, the DNS server once it receives the request, it then sends the response by sending the url of Facebook’s actual address to your search browser and then opens the website called Facebook dot com.
So today, when the users where typing the url on the search browser or opening the applications using their devices, the DNS server was responding with an error. This means all the url of Facebook, WhatsApp, Oculus, and Instagram were now present on the DNS server. This further means that, the social medias were not available on the internet. Possibly meaning that they were all removed from the internet and could not be found.
The WhatsApp Error
According to the Facebook security experts, any slight configuration error or misconfiguration of the peering routers can easily mess up the DNS records. The misconfiguration error could lead to faulting of the routing update and subsequently the network.
On the other hand, it could also be as a result of an automation error from any automation process. For instance, an automated process could easily remove routers available on the core gateways making the IP addresses unavailable for access. In this case, the automation process could have affected all the core routers leading to the breakdown of the internal tooling.
How Did Facebook Solve the Outage?
According to the Facebook security team, Facebook deployed a team of physical employees to every router to directly and physically login to the servers and nor remotely access. The team were selected based on how well they know the problem and how to fix the problem.
According to various sources, there are numerous reasons as to why there was an outage. Some believe that that the company is facing a challenge as portrayed during the 60 Minutes television interview, which saw a former product manager, Frances Haugen, talked on how the company is putting “profits first over people”.
Subsequently, Wall Street Journal has also reported that the problem could appear to be linked to a change that Facebook had initially made regarding its networking instructions on how the world accesses its systems.
Additionally, The New York Times further reported that some of the Facebook employees who had returned to physically working in the office were unable to enter the office buildings and even the conference rooms. This is because of their digital badges had stopped working during the outage.
Furthermore, it has been reported that at this stage there is no evidence of this outage being caused by any form of criminal activity.
It was also found out that other websites were also experiencing outages as shown below:
So, is There Possibility of Criminal Activity?
According to a forum, one of the user said to be in possession of the users’ personal information acquired via data scraper. This was in late September. The person then offered to sell the information in chunks to other individuals or groups that are interested on the forum. Based on the report from the Privacy Affairs, one of the user claimed to have gotten a quote of $5,000 for the information of the 1 million users.
Furthermore, the user said he was in possession of the leaked information that included the users’:
- Facebook account user name
- Email address
- Phone number
- User ID
According to the sources, the person said he was in possession of a four-year-old data scraping operation with 18,000 clients. However, several users on the forum reported that they had not received anything after sending money to the original poster. Thus, not sure if all this was true or not.
On the other hand, similar data leak occurred during the spring season. The leakage was identified to have affected about 533 million users from around 106 countries. This information was identified to be legitimate by the Business Insider. The person was able to use Facebook’s password reset feature to partially confirm the phone numbers associated with certain emails.
Luckily after 6 hours or so based on one’s geolocation, the websites and application of the social media platform resumed working again according to the tweet above by Dylan Reeve.
If you have any question or comment, do not hesitate to ask us.