05 October 2021

Krebs on Security: “What happened to Facebook, Instagram, & WhatsApp?”

Doug Madory is director of internet analysis at Kentik, a San Francisco-based network monitoring company. Madory said at approximately 11:39 a.m. ET today (15:39 UTC), someone at Facebook caused an update to be made to the company’s Border Gateway Protocol (BGP) records. BGP is a mechanism by which Internet service providers of the world share information about which providers are responsible for routing Internet traffic to which specific groups of Internet addresses.

In simpler terms, sometime this morning Facebook took away the map telling the world’s computers how to find its various online properties. As a result, when one types Facebook.com into a web browser, the browser has no idea where to find Facebook.com, and so returns an error page.

In addition to stranding billions of users, the Facebook outage also has stranded its employees from communicating with one another using their internal Facebook tools. That’s because Facebook’s email and tools are all managed in house and via the same domains that are now stranded.

Not only are Facebook’s services and apps down for the public, its internal tools and communications platforms, including Workplace, are out as well, New York Times tech reporter Ryan Mac tweeted. No one can do any work. Several people I’ve talked to said this is the equivalent of a ‘snow day’ at the company.

Brian Krebs

Personally I use Facebook so rarely nowadays that I wouldn’t have noticed this outage, but this issue took down WhatsApp as well and affected other sites because of increased errors in DNS lookups. Guess that’s what happens when you integrate all your products onto a common backend: a single failure has much broader consequences, toppling the entire company like a house of cards. While most of the coverage has focused on Facebook, from internal disruptions because critical employee systems were crippled to their efforts to restore normal operations, I think the impact was mostly felt outside the US, as WhatsApp is an essential communication tool for billions of people in both personal and business contexts.

Kentik’s view of the Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp global outage
Kentik’s view of the Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp outage

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