– Major CDN claims it experienced massive error. [Jump]
– Possible narrative of “over centralised” internet taking shape? [Jump]
– One single customer blamed for “software bug” + Fastly shares jumps 11% in value. [Jump]
– Talking points updated with new reports. [Jump]
Huge swaths of mainstream news sites, and other major online services, have all gone down within minutes of each other this morning.
The Guardian, BBC, New York Times, The Independent, CNN, Buzzfeed, the New Yorker and other outlets are all returning 503 errors. And major service sites such as Twitch, Amazon and PayPal are down too.
The early theorising was that some massive “cyber-attack” has taken place, but there’s no hard evidence of this being the case as yet. No official statements have been made.
Massive cyber attack hitting major websites! Ooooo!
— Andrew O’Neill ☉ (@destructo9000) June 8, 2021
Some are reporting government websites are down too, although they were up when we checked them:
UK government, New York Times, Guardian, FT, Spectator & CNN websites are all reportedly down simultaneously
What is going on? pic.twitter.com/JxO2kbRBG2
— Maajid أبو عمّار (@MaajidNawaz) June 8, 2021
As we say, there’s no official word that it was a cyberattack, yet, it may still be ascribed some huge technical fault. Some unconfirmed reports are saying it’s an error with a major CDN (content delivery network).
But even then, it’s hard to imagine some agenda or narrative isn’t at the root of all this. Especially since it seems only major sites have been hit (so far).
If the disruptions are indeed blamed on a cyberattack, it would be one of the biggest in history and be a timely occurrence for the establishment, which has been trying to shift the conversation to cyber attacks a lot over the last month or so.
Just yesterday it was revealed that the US government had seized millions in cryptocurrency paid as a ransom to the “hackers” who disrupted work on the biggest oil pipeline in the country.
That “cyber attack” caused a gas shortage and sent the cost of petrol surging. The hackers responsible – apparently known as Darkside – claimed they did it for money and didn’t mean to “cause problems”.
BREAKING: A law enforcement official says U.S. officials have seized millions of dollars in cryptocurrency paid as ransom after the Colonial Pipeline hack. The cyberattack had caused the nation’s largest fuel pipeline to halt its operations last month. https://t.co/9NTtIr41Q2
— The Associated Press (@AP) June 7, 2021
Following this, at the G7, Joe Biden had “urged” other members of the economic group to “take seriously” the role that bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies play in cyber-attacks.
Whatever the root cause of this situation may be, it’s certainly true “cyber attacks” are suddenly in the zeitgeist, and crypto is in the crosshairs.
Certain questions arise…
- Will this outage be blamed on a cyber-attack?
- If so, who will be blamed?
- What will the proposed “solution” be?
- If it’s not a cyberattack, what will be blamed?
- Will new legislation be pushed through on the back of this?
- Does the CDN story make sense?
- Why were only major sites affected
- Is the internet too centralised if this can indeed happen by accident?
- Can that be turned into a narrative that needs a solution?
- Will bitcoin (or other cryptocurrencies) be in the firing line?
As always, discuss below, and we will add important updates to this post.
UPDATE: Just minutes after this was published, the CDN Fastly released a statement claiming they had experienced an error. They claim they have fixed the problem but sites may have high origin load for several hours.
UPDATE 2: Planned or not, a narrative around the outage is shaping up. Several outlets are already a) Totally accepting the given explanation, and b) Suggesting that, as we posited above, the internet may be “too centralised”. The Telegraph quotes one source from IT company Digital3:
This is what happens when half of the internet relies on Goliaths like Amazon, Google and Fastly for all of its servers and web services. The entire internet has become dangerously geared on just a few players.”
While Sky News has a column taking a similar if less-iconoclastic angle:
Internet outage is a cautionary tale about the fragility of the web
It is possible this really was just an accident, they do happen. But it’s also possible it was setting the table for more internet problems down the line, or just designed to make people feel vulnerable, or people made money shorting Fastly stocks before they slumped…who knows. Only time will tell.
UPDATE: Fastly has announced the “software bug” was caused by just one customer changing their settings. This seems bizarre, and given that fastly is a relatively minor CDN provider – much smaller than Cloudflare or Amazon Web Services for example – it’s odd it had such a big impact. (It’s especially odd Amazon would have been impacted, as they literally own one of the biggest CDNs in the world.)
But these are questions there will likely never be an answer to.
A fluffy write-up in the Indy tries to put a positive spin on the incident:
Perhaps the brief outage reminded people of just how vital, vulnerable, and essentially incomprehensible, the modern internet really is. You don’t know what you’ve got until its giving you an error message…Incidents like this underline the fragility of the internet and its dependence on a patchwork of fragmented technology. Ironically, this also underlines its inherent strength and how quickly it can recover.
Meanwhile, Fastly have had an overall 11% jump in the share prices in less than 24 hours as their apparent indispensability was demonstrated.