Here’s why a chunk of the internet went down on Tuesday

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Screenshot from down detector.com

In case you missed it, a chunk of the internet went down at around 5:50 p.m. PST on Tuesday, June 8. Major global websites including CNN, The New York Times, BBC, Amazon, Reddit, HBO Max, Twitch, Hulu, Paypal, and even the UK government’s portal were among the thousands that took the fall.

The website issues were simultaneously reported by users on Downdetector, which detects the status or availability of websites in real-time. At the same time, news outlets tweeted that they are being affected by a “wider internet outage.”

The outage, referred to by many as the “global crash,” was blamed on one company—Fastly, a San Francisco-based cloud computing service provider used by businesses around the globe to run their websites.

As The New York Times explains, Fastly provides a technology known as a Content Delivery Network (CDN) used to reduce the distance between a server and a user, thus accelerating website loading speeds. Fastly says its network improves reliability because it distributes a website to many locations, rather than depending on a central data center.

At 5:58 p.m. PST on Tuesday, Fastly posted on its website that it is investigating a problem in its CDN services. Six hours later, it reported that the “issue has been identified and a fix has been applied. Customers may experience increased origin load as global services return.”

“We identified a service configuration that triggered disruptions across our POPs globally and have disabled that configuration,” a Fastly spokesperson told Mashable.

But yesterday’s online screwup was just one of the thousands of crashes that the cyberworld runs into every year. In fact, a similar incident happened on July 24, 2019, when users across the world were unable to access a large fraction of the web. The Conversation reports that the root cause was an outage suffered by leading content host Cloudflare.

Issues like such have been known at least since 1998, but deploying the necessary cryptographic solutions is out of the question, especially because the vast internet has no centralized authority. Different parts of the infrastructure are owned and operated by different governments and corporations. A change done by any of them wouldn’t reap any benefits unless the rest of the world—or, at least, the majority of it—would do the same.

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