The unprecedentedly long outage at Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp is most likely the result of an internal error by an employee, security experts suspect. This employee would have performed an update at the border gateway protocol (bgp) systems. This ensures that visitors end up on the website or in the apps. Within minutes, the bgp system no longer existed.
Sebastiaan Quekel, Simone van Zwienen
Facebook’s services are now up and running again, but it took about six hours for the company to resolve the connectivity issues.
In fact, all the signposts to the Facebook systems were gone. No app or site was able to connect to the servers. “This looks like a pretty epic configuration flaw, Facebook doesn’t actually exist on the internet right now,” said cybersecurity expert Kevin Beaumont.
During the outage, several experts confirmed to Reuters news agency that the outage may have been caused by an internal error at Facebook. They do not rule out sabotage from within, but a hack from outside is considered unlikely.
The Dutch cyber expert Ronald Prins underlines this. He does not assume that Facebook has been attacked by cyber criminals, but considers the risk of a personal blunder higher. “It looks like this is a malfunction,” the expert said tonight at ON 1. “That whoever is responsible for the routers and for the exterior of Facebook made a mistake. The error may even be so serious that that employee no longer has access to those devices from his workplace and that he cannot repair it himself.”
According to Prins, this means that experts have to physically go to the data centers to manually reset the servers. Technical director Mike Schroepfer said the Facebook teams are “working hard to resolve it as soon as possible.” “Our sincere apologies to anyone currently affected by the outage of our services,” he said.
According to Joost Bijl of Cybersecurity, the error is not irreparable. Facebook has not really disappeared from the net. ,,It is possible to retrieve, but it is complicated. There are very few people who can do that, it’s not something you do often.”
What’s going on now?
The entire Facebook empire seemed to have disappeared from the face of the earth on Monday. Facebook itself, Instagram, WhatsApp, Messenger, Workplace and Oculus were completely down for hours.
Facebook uses a system called border gateway protocol (bgp). This ensures that people who, for example, open the Facebook app without noticing it are redirected to the place in the servers where their holiday photos and messages are stored. It also loads the chats in WhatsApp and Messenger, the photos on Instagram, intranet messages from companies using Workplace, and the virtual reality games from Oculus wearers. On good days, it prevents traffic jams and delays. If all visitors went to their data the same way, the networks would crash.
The outage was inconvenient for users, but it is also inconvenient for Facebook itself. Employees could not email each other, because the internal mail systems were also unreachable. “They probably also stored useful information there, which they can no longer access,” said cyber expert Joost Bijl.
And according to American media, people were also unable to enter the data centers to solve the problem on the spot. Their access passes would no longer work, because the system that checks their identity and opens the doors had also become inaccessible.
Internet outages are more common. In July, many websites were inaccessible due to problems at the American tech company Akamai, as a result of which sites of the police, Rabobank, ING and regional newspapers were inaccessible in the Netherlands. A month earlier, problems at the American company Fastly meant that many visited sites worldwide were temporarily off the air, including those of newspapers such as The Guardian, The New York and Le Monde.
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