Global Internet Outage

Facebook, its family of apps and Google services have been affected by global outage triggering disruption to online business

Background

Outage duration is the period of time that a system fails to provide or perform its primary function. The system could fail due to an unplanned event or because of routine maintenance. Outages caused by system failures can have a serious impact on users of network systems.
An Internet outage can occur due to censorship, cyber attacks, disasters or errors. Disruptions of submarine communications cables may cause blackouts or slowdowns to large areas. Countries with a less developed Internet infrastructure are more vulnerable due to small numbers of high-capacity links.

Internet having a "hub-like" core structure makes it robust to random losses of nodes but also fragile to targeted attacks on key components − the highly connected nodes or "hubs".

Analysis

Facebook is undergoing one of its most widespread and persistent system outages, with users across the globe unable to access its social network and services from Instagram to Messenger. Users around the world are reporting issues logging into and posting on the site as well as on Instagram and WhatsApp. Facebook hasn’t given a reason for the outage and provided minimal information other than acknowledging it is aware services are down in some areas.

The company acknowledged the outage in a tweet saying, “We’re aware that some people are currently having trouble accessing the Facebook family of apps. We’re working to resolve the issue as soon as possible.” It later confirmed the problem was not the result of a DDoS attack, which refers to a Distributed Denial-of-Service attack in which a hacker overwhelms a site by flooding it with fake traffic.

Technical issues with Facebook have historically posed serious problems for advertisers who use the platform and even other websites. Several brand marketers tweeted that Facebook’s ad-buying system was down as well.
Facebook previously experienced an outage of its tool for advertisers in November at a time when marketers were trying to place ads for Black Friday and Cyber Monday.

Ad sales are the company’s lifeblood and persistent difficulties could be costly. Based on 2019 sales estimates, Facebook Inc. is projected to generate average daily revenue of about $189 million. Facebook said it was still investigating the overall impact, “including the possibility of refunds for advertisers. The issue also affected Facebook Workplace, the companies service for businesses to communicate internally. Facebook for personal use is fine - but what happens when we rely on large companies such as this to provide business services?" she said. "I'm trying to communicate with my team in New York. Facebook Workplace is our only channel for [communication] with the exception of email."

The timing of a major outage is sub-optimal for Facebook, already embattled by revelations it failed to safeguard user data or stanch the spread of hate speech, fake news and other forms of disinformation. Facebook’s reputation was tarnished after its platform was used by Russian trolls to interfere in the U.S. presidential election in 2016.

The disruptions come just a day after several Google services, including Gmail and Google Drive, experienced widespread disruption. Several Google services were affected as users are unable to access Gmail, YouTube, Drive, and Play Music. The outage came a day after Google’s Cloud status page also showed issues with its  Google App Engine Blobstore API and App Engine Version Deployment, with the company’s engineering team having to migrate underlying storage infrastructure to resolve the issue The outage apparently affected users of workplace G-Suite accounts as well as regular Google accounts

Assessment

Our assessment is that the underlying physical backbone of the internet is fragile. The outage can be linked to 'border gateway protocol routing' leak where global web traffic is mistakenly routed in the wrong direction. It can also be related to the application- layers. We feel that business reliant on these services will be affected by lost productivity, opportunity, brand damage and data loss. We believe that considering ‘revenue per minute’ as a benchmark for potential losses, outages will impose a significant cost on these tech companies.