Technology · June 24, 2022

Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp down: How a social giant disappeared from the internet

Facebook service has been restored after the company’s services were hit by a nearly six-hour outage on Monday.

In an opinionFacebook’s vice president of infrastructure, Santosh Janardhan, said its services including Instagram, WhatsApp and Facebook were down even after a faulty router configuration change.

Internet failure tracker DownDetector said the Facebook blunder was “one of the biggest ever tracked,” adding it was “a hugely impactful event.”

Facebook said it doesn’t believe the outage was the result of an external attack.

“We also have no evidence that user data was compromised as a result of this downtime,” Janardhan wrote.

What brought down Facebook?

As the outage continued, cybersecurity experts discovered that the BGP – “Border Gateway Protocol” – routes into Facebook’s network had been withdrawn.

BGP is the mechanism that forwards data between networks on the internet. If a BCP route is missing, that network effectively becomes inaccessible from the outside.

“With these withdrawals, Facebook and its websites had effectively separated themselves from the internet,” according to the web infrastructure service Cloudflare wrote in a blog about the incident.

Columbia University computer scientist Steven Bellovin speculated on Twitter on the situation Facebook was facing, saying, “If they can’t reach their border routers from within the company, they’re in for a world of pain: people have to physically go to those data centers and reconfigure things by hand.” .

Facebook’s statement on the incident said, although BGP bugs were not explicitly named as the culprit for the outage, “Configuration changes to the backbone routers that coordinate network traffic between our data centers caused problems that disrupted those communications… and our services at a halt”.

Security expert John Bambenek told the Associated Press that the way the online infrastructure is built makes such mistakes inevitable.

“The reality is that the internet is somehow held together by broken tape and chewing gum. So it will fail. The only surprising thing for someone like me who’s been doing it for so long is that it works at all on this scale,” he said.

“A Great Awakening”

The sheer size of Facebook meant the six-hour outage had an impact far beyond simple social media browsing.

Knitwear salesman Kendall Ross told the Associated Press that his company relies on Instagram to promote its products and that the service’s downtime has resulted in lost sales.

“Today’s outage is financially frustrating,” he said. “It’s also a great awakening that social media controls so much of my business success.”

“The reason we’re talking about this is the radical scale and monopoly power that Facebook has,” Bambenek said, adding that the company is “reaching its tentacles not just in our society, but in many societies.”

communication risks

Hacker and cybersecurity expert Rachel Tobec told AP that many people’s reliance on communicating on Facebook, WhatsApp and Instagram may have left them vulnerable to criminals taking advantage of Facebook’s downtime.

“They don’t know how to contact the people in their lives without them,” she said. “They’re more susceptible to social engineering because they’re so desperate to communicate.”

Tobac said that previous outages have seen incidents where people clicked malicious links to restore their access to social media, thereby exposing their personal information.

Facebook-owned messaging service WhatsApp was also crippled by the service outage, leaving users unable to make calls and send or receive messages.

Users who rely on Facebook to sign up for services unrelated to the company and websites and apps that use Facebook’s advertising network have also been affected by the outage.

Excluded

In its statement, Facebook also confirmed that the outage had been prolonged by the company’s reliance on its own servers for basic functions like internal communications and even access to offices and data centers.

It was widely reported on Monday that Facebook employees were being locked out of company buildings by “smart” internet-connected door locks that relied on Facebook servers to work.

“The underlying cause of this outage also impacted many of the internal tools and systems we use in our day-to-day operations, complicating our attempts to quickly diagnose and resolve the issue,” said Janardhan.

Facebook’s reputation is damaged

The service outage is another blow to Facebook, whose reputation has already been tarnished by a series of allegations and leaked documents in recent weeks.

Frances Haugen, a former Facebook product engineer, leaked numerous internal research documents that raised concerns about the harm the company was allegedly doing to children’s mental health.

Haugen also accused the company of “putting profit before the safety of its users” in an interview aired by CBS on Sunday.

On Wall Street, Facebook’s share price, which had already fallen earlier in the session, accelerated its losses on Monday, falling nearly 6 percent, shedding more than $50 billion in value.