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Internet collapse a cause for concern?

‘Is an internet collapse imminent?’ many wondered after the Facebook outage last week. The 6 hour website crash disrupted lives of 3 billion people around the world. Responses ranging from confused to outraged. Business persons described the incident and the effects as “unprecedented” and one entrepreneur requested compensation for the impact on their livelihood. 

Will the internet crash?

This incident illuminates just how reliant we are on certain internet platforms and on internet services as a whole. They’ve become integral components of enterprise and industry. While Facebook’s website crash may have been an isolated incident, experts state that more widespread platform and internet service outages may grow increasingly common.

Across the past few years, a large percentage of the populace has come to rely on a small number of networks for the delivery of most internet services. As a result, when one such firm encounters an internal service failure, the problem impacts hundreds of thousands of other groups. For example, Facebook is now widely used to sign into other platforms and devices; from smart televisions, to Airbnb, to Spotify. 

Internet service and platform service outages are becoming more frequent and more serious. Outages affect business development, the markets, supply chains, international militaries…etc. Should businesses develop corresponding contingency plans? 

When the website crashed

The October 2021 Facebook configuration error disrupted the company’s service for roughly 6 hours. When events like this occur, “Millions or potentially hundreds of millions of people are just sort of sitting around waiting for a small team in California to fix something. It’s an interesting phenomena that has grown in the last couple of years,” says Luke Deryckx, Chief Technical Officer at Down Detector. 

In July, a series of services, from Airbnb to Home Depot, dropped offline for around an hour. This incident was related to a vulnerability within the Domain Name System (DNS) of a third-party business partner. 

In June, a series of big name Silicon Valley tech firms experienced outages for around an hour after a bug was discovered within the software of a cloud computing service client. 

In December of 2020, YouTube, Gmail and Google Drive services experienced a 90 minute disruption due to an “internal storage quota issue,” which was promptly resolved. 

Was it a cyber attack?

This question often looms large when unexpected outages occur. Experts indicate that in most cases, a website crash occurs due to the combination of the internet’s natural complexity and human error. On Twitter, one person joked that the reasons for a recent website crash were “designed on the back of a napkin,” likely in the ’80s. 

While doomsday scenarios are “highly unlikely,”  nefarious human activities could, theoretically, precipitate an website service or internet service outage. Scientists also contend that solar flares could produce an electromagnetic pulse capable of disabling computer systems around the globe.

For more information about website crashes, internet crashes, internet collapse, and the like, see Cyber Talk’s past coverage. Lastly, to receive cyber security insights, analysis and resources in your inbox each week, sign up for our newsletter.

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