BGP ISSUES: When one types Facebook.com into a web browser, the browser has no idea where to find Facebook.com, and so returns an error page
San Francisco, USA | THE INDEPENDENT | Facebook and its sister properties Instagram and WhatsApp are suffering from ongoing, global outages, according to tech investigators krebsonsecurity.
” We don’t yet know why this happened, but the how is clear: Earlier this morning, something inside Facebook caused the company to revoke key digital records that tell computers and other Internet-enabled devices how to find these destinations online,” Krebsonsecurity reported hours ago.
We’re aware that some people are experiencing issues with WhatsApp at the moment. We’re working to get things back to normal and will send an update here as soon as possible.
Thanks for your patience!
— WhatsApp (@WhatsApp) October 4, 2021
Quoting Doug Madory, director of internet analysis at Kentik, at approximately 11:39 a.m. ET Monday (15:39 UTC), someone at Facebook caused an update to be made to the company’s Border Gateway Protocol (BGP) records.
BGP is a mechanism by which Internet service providers of the world share information about which providers are responsible for routing Internet traffic to which specific groups of Internet addresses.
In simpler terms, sometime Monday morning Facebook took away the map telling the world’s computers how to find its various online properties. As a result, when one types Facebook.com into a web browser, the browser has no idea where to find Facebook.com, and so returns an error page.
In addition to stranding billions of users, the Facebook outage also has stranded its employees from communicating with one another using their internal Facebook tools. That’s because Facebook’s email and tools are all managed in house and via the same domains that are now stranded.
“Not only are Facebook’s services and apps down for the public, its internal tools and communications platforms, including Workplace, are out as well,” New York Times tech reporter Ryan Mac tweeted. “No one can do any work. Several people I’ve talked to said this is the equivalent of a ‘snow day’ at the company.”
The outages come just hours after CBS’s 60 Minutes aired a much-anticipated interview with Frances Haugen, the Facebook whistleblower who recently leaked a number of internal Facebook investigations showing the company knew its products were causing mass harm, and that it prioritized profits over taking bolder steps to curtail abuse on its platform — including disinformation and hate speech.
We don’t know how or why the outages persist at Facebook and its other properties, but the changes had to have come from inside the company, as Facebook manages those records internally. Whether the changes were made maliciously or by accident is anyone’s guess at this point.
Madory said it could be that someone at Facebook just screwed up.
“In the past year or so, we’ve seen a lot of these big outages where they had some sort of update to their global network configuration that went awry,” Madory said. “We obviously can’t rule out someone hacking them, but they also could have done this to themselves.”
Sheera Frenkel with The New York Times tweeted that Facebook employees told her they were having trouble accessing Facebook buildings because their employee badges no longer worked. That could be one reason this outage has persisted so long: Facebook engineers may be having trouble physically accessing the computer servers needed to upload new BGP records to the global Internet.
In the meantime, several different domain registration companies listed the domain Facebook.com as up for sale. There’s no reason to believe this domain will actually be sold as a result, but it’s fun to consider how many billions of dollars it could fetch on the open market.