PostedOctober 5, 2021, 3:00 PM
The incident would be of technical origin but its concomitance with the recent revelations on its toxicity are questioning.
An unprecedented global blackout forced billions of users on Monday to do without all of Facebook’s services, from WhatsApp to Instagram, via Messenger and Oculus.
How could an incident of such magnitude overthrow the American social media giant? What impact can it have?
Facebook remained vague on the origin of the failure, contenting itself with mentioning “changes in the configuration of the backbone routers which coordinate Internet traffic between our data centers”.
Several cybersecurity experts believe that the incident is probably related to a maintenance problem of the “Border Gateway Protocol” (BGP).
This protocol makes it possible to create a viable access path between a computer and a website.
In the manner of an air traffic controller who regularly reviews the routes, “Facebook has updated these routes,” says Sami Slim of the data center operator Telehouse.
But “they have entered a bad road,” said Sami Slim, making Facebook and its affiliated platforms inaccessible to Internet users.
Disappeared from the web radars, the domain name Facebook.com was even found for sale for a few moments on the sites of some hosts.
Why did it take so long?
It took over six hours to get back to normal.
“The downtime is not in the time that Facebook took to diagnose the problem,” says Pierre Bonis, CEO of Afnic, the association responsible for managing French domain names.
On the other hand, “there are replication times” once the error is detected, he adds. “The new information must be picked up by all the intermediaries in the internet chain.”
If occasional outages are frequently identified on social networks, especially on Instagram, the scale of Monday’s paralysis is unprecedented.
Who is behind?
Human error, technical failure or malicious actor? At this stage, there is nothing to favor one track over another.
However, some observers have noted the concomitance between Monday’s blackout and the recent revelations of a whistleblower about the toxic effects of Facebook and Instagram on society, which have embarrassed the group led by Mark Zuckerberg. .
After transmitting internal documents to the Wall Street Journal, France Haugen, a former Facebook engineer appeared openly on American television on Sunday, accusing the company of choosing “profit over safety”.
She is due to testify on Tuesday in front of American senators.
In addition to being unavailable to billions of users around the world, Facebook was unable to run ads for several hours, which are its main source of revenue.
On Wall Street, the sanction was final: the action of Facebook tumbled nearly 5% on Monday.
The group’s misfortunes have also been a boon for its competitors.
The Telegram messaging, rival of WhatsApp, thus passed Monday from 56th to 5th place of the most downloaded free applications in the United States, according to the specialized firm SensorTower.
“Registrations are up sharply on Signal (welcome everyone)”, also tweeted this other messenger known for its data encryption.
Facebook’s giant blackout shows that even the mainstays of the internet are not immune to a power outage.
“It’s proof that the too big too fail (too big to fail, Editor’s note) does not work in IT, ”notes Mr. Bonis.
Specialists also point to the limits of Facebook’s concentration of its various services.
“Over the past two years, Facebook has consolidated its ecosystem of disparate applications on a single backbone infrastructure,” said Mike Proulx, vice president and research director of the research and consulting firm Forrester.
“This approach allows the company to gain operational efficiency and to isolate itself from a possible dismantling by the regulators. But it also exposes Facebook to the risk of concentration. A single risk event that cascades – like old Christmas string lights: if one of them goes out, all the others go out ”