Why did Facebook, Instagram, and WhatsApp all fall back today

Facebook, Instagram, The WhatsApp and Oculus outage disrupted every corner of Mark Zuckerberg’s empire on Monday. It’s a social media blackout that can be benevolently described as “extensive” and seems particularly difficult to fix.

Facebook itself has not confirmed the root cause of its problems, but clues abound on the internet. The company’s suite of apps actually fell off the Internet at 11:40 a.m. ET, according to a report Domain Name System Records become inaccessible. DNS is often referred to as the Internet phone book; It’s what translates the hostnames you type into the URL tab – like – into the IP addresses, where those sites live.

DNS errors are common enough, and when in doubt They are the cause of a particular site downtime. They can happen for all sorts of shaky technical reasons, often related to configuration issues, and their solution can be relatively simple. In this case, it looks like something more serious is afoot.

The Facebook outage appears to be caused by the DNS; “But that’s just a symptom of the problem,” says Troy Morch, chief research officer at cyberthreat intelligence firm Bad Packets. Morsch says – and other experts agree – that the underlying issue is that Facebook has pulled a so-called Border Gateway Protocol path that contains the IP addresses of its DNS name servers. If DNS is the Internet’s phone book, then BGP is its navigation system; It decides what path the data takes as it travels along the information highway.

“You can think of it as a phone game,” says Angélique Medina, director of product marketing for network monitoring firm Cisco ThousandEyes, but instead of people playing, smaller networks let each other know how to reach them. “They announce this path to their neighbor and their neighbor will spread it to their peers.”

It’s a lot of terms, but it’s easy to spell out: Facebook has fallen off the internet map. If I try to ping these IP addresses now? “Beams end up in a black hole,” Morsch says.

Map shows where Facebook is inaccessible due to DNS resolution failures – basically, it’s everywhere, all at once.

Courtesy of Cisco Thousand Eyes

The obvious and yet unresolved question is why BGP methods disappeared in the first place. It is not a common disease, especially in this range or of such duration. Facebook didn’t say anything other than a tweet that it was “working to get things back to normal ASAP.” But Internet infrastructure experts who spoke to WIRED all pointed out that the likely answer was a configuration error on the part of Facebook. “Facebook appears to have done something for their routers, the ones that connect the Facebook network to the rest of the Internet,” says John Graham Cumming, CTO of Internet infrastructure company Cloudflare, and he emphasized that he does not know the details of what happened. After all, he says, the Internet is essentially a network of networks, each proclaiming its existence to the other. For once, Facebook stopped advertising.

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