Online Chaos: Major Websites Experience Global Blackout

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Numerous major websites were experiencing outages and bizarre downtimes Tuesday morning, according to multiple reports. Users on Twitter noted that there were several sites they were having trouble accessing from 6 AM Eastern Time throughout the morning. The sites ranged from Amazon to the UK government’s website. Also impacted were news sites like CNN and the New York Times.

At first, some users online speculated that the situation could be a denial of service (or DOS) attack or some other type of hacking attempt. The actual reason for the outages turned out to be much more surprising than a hacker collective trying to ransom a huge swath of the internet.

Instead, the outages don’t appear to have been caused by malice or hackers at all. The issues were related to a back-end cloud services provider in an episode that is reminiscent of a similar outage from nearly a year ago.

Fastly Admits to Fault

Tuesday morning’s issues were traced back to a web service called Fastly. This company offers cloud computing services for many websites. They operate behind the scenes and aren’t the kind of business that is known by name by most people, so if this is the first time you’ve heard of Fastly, you’re not alone.

Just after 7:00 AM Eastern Time, Fastly tweeted that they were aware of the problem and had taken steps to address it. “We identified a service configuration that triggered disruptions across our POPs globally and have disabled that configuration,” the service tweeted.

“Our global network is coming back online.”

Cloud Computing Outages

The Fastly outage is surprising for two major reasons. The first is that something as simple as a cloud computing service could result in outages to major websites all over the world. The second is that this isn’t actually the first time a cloud computing provider has had an outage that sent the internet reeling.

On July 17, 2020, one of Fastly’s competitors, Cloudflare, experienced a configuration error that resulted in all of the service’s traffic being routed through an Atlanta server, overloading that server and bringing huge swaths of the internet down.

Ironically, a number of sites jumped from Cloudflare to Fastly as a result of this outage, citing the potential for instability as their reason for switching. Now, with Fastly experiencing a similar outage from configuration settings, questions are arising over just how stable the entire internet actually is. With the bulk of the world’s trade and communication carried out online, it is vital for the global economy that the systems that keep the internet running are stable.