Facebook Outage Drags Down Instagram, WhatsApp, Messenger, Oculus VR

They were all flat on their faces for hours on Monday, throwing off DNS error messages or other server-related errors.

As of Monday afternoon, Facebook had been flat on its face for hours, suffering a simultaneous worldwide outage not only on its main site, but also at its Instagram, WhatsApp, Messenger and Oculus VR subsidiaries.

The New York Times reported that Facebook’s internal communications platform, Workplace, was also dragged offline, “leaving most employees unable to do their jobs.” It’s been a thumb-twiddling afternoon, the Times reported, with two Facebook employees comparing it to a “snow day.”

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On Twitter, the hashtag #facebookdown was turning up predictable hilarity, transmitting blissful relief at the notion of a rainbow-bedrenched, Facebook-less world.

The reasons for the outage are unclear, but judging by the error message being thrown off by Facebook’s and WhatsApp’s domains – as shown in the screen captures below – it’s a DNS problem.

 

As of 15:29 EDT, Instagram’s site was displaying a “5xx Server Error” error.

BGP Bye-Byes

Cloudflare CTO John Graham-Cumming said in a series of tweets that the company saw Facebook disappear from the internet “in a flurry of BGP updates” between 15:50 UTC and 15:52 UTC:

In other words, Facebook’s border gateway protocol (BGP) routes were kaput, meaning that it had lost the protocols that make routing decisions based on paths, network policies or rule-sets configured by a network administrator.

Two Facebook security team members who requested anonymity told the New York Times that it’s unlikely that a cyberattack was behind the mass outages, given that “the technology behind the apps was still different enough that one hack was not likely to affect all of them at once.”

Outage Coincides with Facebook’s Media Circus

The Verge reports that Facebook’s fiefdom skidded offline just as Facebook’s global head of safety, Antigone Davis, was live on CNBC. She was there to defend her employer against a whistleblower’s accusations that Facebook values product optimization so much that it has embraced algorithms that amplify hate speech, as well as to address Facebook’s handling of research data that suggests Instagram is harmful to teens.

Saryu Nayyar, CEO of Gurucul, said that if the Facebook outage does turn out to be caused by attackers, they’re probably pissed off about Facebook’s business practices.

“As more facts about Facebook and its business practices become public, its users’ anger seems to be on the rise,” she noted via email to Threatpost on Monday. “If they are attackers, they respond by attacking – in this case, possibly a DDoS attack that flooded the company’s DNS server.”

In any event, the company is working on the problems: “We’re aware that some people are having trouble accessing our apps and products,” said Facebook police communications director Andy Stone. “We’re working to get things back to normal as quickly as possible, and we apologize for any inconvenience.”

When The Verge checked out Down Detector before publishing its 12:01 EDT report on the issues, it looked like the problems were global. Outages spiked around noon EDT and were still coming down from that high as of 15:09 EDT, but the situation clearly hadn’t completely resolved.

The Verge also reported that users of the Oculus’s virtual reality technology can load games – if they’ve already installed and the browser works – but that Oculus social features are down, and users can’t install new games.

The Internet Is Still a Fragile Web

Bill Lawrence, CISO of SecurityGate, told Threatpost on Monday that outages like this one show little progress since the distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attack on Dyn in October 2016. That attack, which affected Twitter, GitHub and others provided lessons learned: To ward off such a scenario, many large organizations now protect against DNS loss by maintaining multiple DNS systems across different DNS providers.

Even so, five years after Dyn we still have parts of the internet that can still shatter when services like DNS get interrupted for some reason, he said. Thus, Lawrence said that it will be interesting to see what caused this lingering outage to “several jewels in the Facebook family.”

Gurucul’s Nayyar agreed with the New York Times’ sources inside Facebook’s security team who said that the company’s infrastructure is too diverse for a cyberattack to cripple. She said that it’s highly unlikely that Facebook hasn’t protected itself in similar fashion, she said.

“While the cause of Facebook’s problem isn’t yet clear, it would be amazing if they hadn’t already set up multiple DNS providers,” she commented.

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Discussion

  • Anonymous on

    I want my Facebook back on line as soon as possible. I do not know what the problem is but fix it now.
  • Linda Clark on

    I want my Facebook fixed now. I do not know what the problem is but fix it as soon as possible.
  • BRAUNTEK on

    Users of Facebook, especially the ones who can't live without it, need to demand Facebook to change its’s assistance in spreading misinformation, misinformation, or whatever the term is that is defined; “ enabling or encouraging false information with intent.” The code written for the way Facebook spreads garbage for profit needs to be overhauled. I don't think changing algorithms will do the trick, only “start from scratch” approach will work. It's gone too far for too long. I feel Facebook's fate as the largest social media platform and a corporation is at stake. The US Government will act at some point. It's not going to be a dead-end Gun Control campaign that never ends. Real people are getting hurt and killed. Countries in conflict are amped exponentially due to Facebook. Myanmar is an underestimated modern day massacre event that when all said and done, if FB did not exist, thousands of thousands of lives would have been saved. Third world countries citizens, especially millennials see Facebook as the “Internet” itself. The don't understand the difference and FB has taken advantage of them in the worst way. This is not a greedy corporation with a large profit agenda. It's much bigger and complicated than that frankly, we who are lucky to live in “Free” counties, take for granted for what we have and most don't even understand this concept. If you have any respect for the human race, demand Facebook makes real change now. If not, after October 4, 2021 outage, we understand how fragile the internet is and easily the US Government could with rather ease, have Facebook brought to it's knees, by full blackout forever.
  • Anonymous on

    Facebook should be taken down for good. It’s a waste of time.

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