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WhatsApp, Instagram and Facebook brought offline in major global outage

Facebook shares dropped 5.62% (at the time of writing) as the outage affected millions of users across the world.

By João Marques Lima

Founder and Editor, The Tech Capital

6 Mins

October 04, 2021 | 5:08 PM BST

WhatsApp, Instagram and Facebook brought offline in major global outage

The first reports of the downtime began at 5pm BST

WhatsApp, Instagram and Facebook (NASDAQ: FB) – used by 2 billion people every day – have been brought down by a global outage that lasted over six hours and cost hundreds of millions of Dollars to the global economy.

The downtime was not only registered on the different platform’s websites but also across mobile applications.

The first user reports of the downtime began at around 4:49pm BST on October 4, with other apps from Facebook’s realm such as Facebook Workplace, Facebook Messenger and Oculus also crashing.

Facebook runs all its applications on shared infrastructure.

At 8:52pm BST, the first Facebook executive spoke out on the outage. Using Twitter, CTO Mike Schroepfer, said: “*Sincere* apologies to everyone impacted by outages of Facebook powered services right now. We are experiencing networking issues and teams are working as fast as possible to debug and restore as fast as possible.”

The problem seems to be related to a routine BGP update that went wrong, according to security researcher Steve Gibson. This in turn locked out those with remote access who could reverse the mistake. Those who do have physical access do not have authorisation on the servers.

According to NetBlocks, a watchdog organisation that monitors cybersecurity and the governance of the Internet, the outage has cost the global economy more than $160 million in the first three hours. Facebook’s share price fell by more than 5% with CEO Mark Zuckerberg, who owns 14% of the business, seeing his stock plummeting by as much as US$7 billion in the first hours of the crisis, Bloomberg calculated.

“Sorry, something went wrong. We’re working on it and we’ll get it fixed as soon as we can,” a message on the Facebook website said.

A Facebook spokesperson wasn’t immediately available to respond to a request for comment.

Andy Stone, a spokesperson for Facebook, said in the first hour of the network crashing – also in a Twitter post: “We’re aware that some people are having trouble accessing our apps and products. We’re working to get things back to normal as quickly as possible, and we apologize for any inconvenience.”

Thousands of mobile network customers have also taken to Twitter reporting that data services are also down. Known affected brands include so far Verizon, T-Mobile and AT&T in the US and EE, Vodafone, Three and o2 in the UK.

Alternative chat apps like Telegram reportedly also faced traffic issues as millions turned to alternative platforms.

Cybersecurity expert, Kevin Beaumont, wrote on Twitter: “This one looks like a pretty epic configuration error, Facebook basically don’t exist on the internet right now. Even their authoritative name server ranges have been BGP – Border Gateway Protocol – withdrawn.”

Web services tracker downdetector.com has logged hundreds of thousands of user reports related to the outage across WhatsApp, Instagram, Facebook and Facebook Messenger.

Popular social media management platform Hootsuite has also contacted its millions of users to warn of disruption caused by the outage.

The company said: “Facebook and Instagram are currently experiencing issues. You may encounter issues performing actions for any Facebook or Instagram profile within Hootsuite.

“Our team is working with Facebook and Instagram to resolve the issue as quickly as possible. We thank you in advance for your understanding and patience.”

The outage comes two years after a similar incident that lasted an hour was blamed on a technical issue.

Earlier this year, in June and April, some of Facebook’s platforms also went down. The incident was blamed on a “network configuration issue”.

In an interview in 2019 with The Verge, Facebook’s CEO Mark Zuckerberg said outages were a “big deal” for the company.

He said: “Even from just a competition standpoint, what we see is that when we have downtimes in WhatsApp or Instagram Direct, there are people who just don’t come back. The complexity of the systems is growing so things that previously would have just been a blip are now things that are causing systems to fall over.”

Facebook utilises a combination of hosting methods to serve its billions of users mixing self-built and operated infrastructure, with colocation hosting.

The company has invested more than US$16 billion in building out its US footprint, the largest chunk in the social media giant’s portfolio amounting to 34.2 million square feet of capacity.

Outside of the US, Facebook runs 5.4 million square feet of space in Ireland, Sweden, Denmark and Singapore.

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João Marques Lima

Founder and Editor, The Tech Capital

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