Social media platforms outage due to faulty configuration change

Hakim Hayat

Facebook and its Instagram and WhatsApp platforms were back online at around 7am yesterday after a massive global outage that lasted almost six hours, plunging services and businesses and as well as users into chaos for hours.

In Brunei, the outage began at about 11.40pm on the first day of a two-week movement restriction measure that left many who heavily utilise the platforms with questions. (WhatsApp is the most common method of communication in Brunei while Instagram and Facebook are also widely used).

For hours, Facebook’s only public comment was a tweet that acknowledged “some people are having trouble accessing (the) Facebook app” and said it was working on restoring access. Regarding the internal failures, Instagram head Adam Mosseri tweeted that the outrage felt like a “snow day”. “I thought it has something to do with surge of usage that caused the loss of connection but after confirming through a simple search on Google, it (the outage) was reported globally,” commented Hanisah binti Suhili, who utilises Facebook to run her business online. “This side of the world is lucky because the outage happened just before midnight when most people are already in bed.”

The Authority for Info-communications Technology Industry of Brunei Darussalam (AITI) responded to the global outage in a statement yesterday by saying it was “unrelated to telecommunications services in Brunei Darussalam, which did not show any interruptions during the outage period specified”.

The AITI also said Facebook Inc (FB.O) in an update on the October 4 outage made it clear that the cause was a faulty configuration change.

AITI said there is no evidence that Facebook and its associated platforms have been hacked and added that no user data was compromised during the downtime.

On Facebook blog, they said, “Our engineering team has learnt that configuration changes on the backbone routers that coordinate network traffic between our data caused issues that interrupted this communication.”

Facebook’s outgoing chief technology officer Mike Schroepfer later tweeted “sincere apologies”.

In Monday night’s statement, Facebook blamed changes on routers that coordinate network traffic between data centres. The company said the changes interrupted the communication, which had “a cascading effect on the way our data centres communicate, bringing our services to a halt”.

There was no evidence as of Monday afternoon that malicious activities were involved. CEO of the Internet infrastructure provider Cloudflare Matthew Prince tweeted that “nothing we’re seeing related to the Facebook services outage suggests it was an attack”.

Twitter, meanwhile, chimed in from the company’s main account on its service, posting “hello literally everyone” as jokes and memes about the Facebook outage flooded the platform.