Did you know why Facebook, WhatsApp and Instagram collapsed? All you need to know

Updated on Oct 06, 2021 12:16 AM IST  |  489.4K
Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp, Internet, Outage
Did you know why Facebook, WhatsApp and Instagram collapsed? All you need to know
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On Monday evening, Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp and Oculus outages hit almost every corner of the world. The outage lasted almost 6 hours before it was backed up. 

Not only Facebook but all of its services were affected. It included Facebook's own internal systems, with reports of employees being locked out of offices and unable to access their own internal communications platform. Those websites are located.

Facebook issued a statement on Twitter later acknowledging the issue.

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What caused it?

Facebook confirmed the cause of the outage was a configuration change to the backbone routers that coordinate network traffic between the company's data centres, which had a cascading effect, bringing all Facebook services to a halt. It meant that not only was Facebook gone, but so was everything it ran.

Others have gone into greater detail about why Facebook vanished from the internet. Cloudflare, which experienced its own recent internet outage, has provided a detailed explanation of what occurred.

It consists of two components that determine how the internet works – Domain Name System (DNS) and Border Gateway Protocol (BGP).

The internet is a collection of interconnected networks. A great deal. So, in order to keep things in order, you'll need something like BGP to tell you where you need to go. DNS is essentially the address system for each website's location – its IP address – whereas BGP is the roadmap that determines the most efficient route to that IP address.

ThousandEyes, Inc. a CISCO owned network intelligence company that specialises in software that analyzes the performance of local and wide area networks reported on this through The Internet Outages Map. The Internet Outages Map is a visual representation of global Internet health over the last 24 hours, displaying the frequency of Internet outages observed across ISP, public cloud, and edge service networks.  It showed how Facebook’s application was globally unreachable due to DNS resolution failure.

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As reported on WIRED it stated DNS errors are relatively common, and when in doubt, they are the cause of a site's downtime. They can occur for a variety of strange technical reasons, most of which are related to configuration issues, and are usually simple to resolve. In this case, however, it appears that something more serious is at work.

“Facebook's outage appears to be caused by DNS; however, this is only a symptom of the problem,” said Troy Mursch, chief research officer at cyber threat intelligence firm Bad Packets. The fundamental problem, according to Mursch and other experts, is that Facebook has removed the so-called Border Gateway Protocol route that contains the IP addresses of its DNS nameservers.

If DNS is the internet's phone book, BGP is its navigation system; it determines how data travels the information superhighway.

What is DNS?

According to Cloudflare, The Domain Name System (DNS) is the Internet's phonebook. Domain names, such as nytimes.com or espn.com, are used by humans to access information online. Web browsers communicate using Internet Protocol (IP) addresses. DNS converts domain names to IP addresses so that browsers can access Internet resources.

Each Internet-connected device has a unique IP address that other machines can use to locate the device. DNS servers eliminate the need for humans to remember IP addresses like 192.168.1.1 (in IPv4) or more complex newer alphanumeric IP addresses like 2400:cb00:2048:1::c629:d7a2 (in IPv6).

DNS resolution is the process of converting a hostname (such as www.example.com) into a computer-friendly IP address (such as 192.168.1.1). 

Each device on the Internet is assigned an IP address, and that address is required to locate the appropriate Internet device, just as a street address is used to locate a specific home. 

When a user requests a webpage, a translation must take place between what the user types into their web browser (example.com) and the machine-friendly address required to locate the example.com webpage.

What is a BGP?

Border Gateway Protocol (BGP) is the Internet's postal service. When someone places a letter in a mailbox, the postal service processes it and selects the most efficient route to deliver the letter to its intended recipient. 

Similarly, when someone sends data across the Internet, BGP is in charge of examining all of the possible paths that data could take and selecting the best route, which usually involves hopping between autonomous systems.

Why did it take Facebook so long to fix?

As the Guardian's UK technology editor, Alex Hern, put it on Twitter, "Facebook runs EVERYTHING through Facebook," so the standard way to solve a problem like this was also ineffective. Facebook employees were reportedly unable to access their own communication platform, Workplace, and were unable to enter their office due to a security pass system outage.

Because of the length and severity of the outage, Facebook indicated that the systems were gradually being restored to full capacity.

The Internet Outages Map also showed how Facebook’s DNS service appeared to be fully restored by approximately 21:30 UTC and Facebook.com was now reachable for most users.

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What is an ISP?
It is the abbreviation of Internet service provider (ISP) is a company that provides web or Internet access to both businesses and consumers.

DNS stands for?
The Domain Name System (DNS) which is also called the Internet's phonebook

What is Cloudflare?
Cloudflare, Inc. is an American web infrastructure and website security company that provides content delivery network and DDoS(distributed denial-of-service) mitigation services.

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