The WhatsApp, Facebook and Instagram apps were offline globally since around noon (Brasilia) for seven hours. Nobody could send messages or upload new posts. And so far, Facebook, owner of the other two services, hasn’t explained why.
There’s still no official explanation, but the main suspicion is that a flaw in the DNS — Domain Name System, or Domain Name System — is at fault. It is a protocol that relates the “nominal” address of a website or application with its real address (IP number, Internet Protocol) in internet databases.
It works like this: when you type, for example, www.uol.com.br, DNS servers come into operation and “translate” the address you typed to the IP 184.108.40.206 (related to UOL) and allow access.
When one of these servers fails, the IP address is out of range.
Even company employees were left without access to the internal tools used to configure the system and fix the problem. That’s what seemed to prolong fixing the flaw in Facebook businesses — when errors like that occur, businesses tend to revert to their previous configuration, but that doesn’t seem to have been possible to do quickly.
sheera Frenkel, a reporter for The New York Times, confirmed the chaotic situation at the company: “I just got off the phone with someone who works for the FB who described employees unable to enter buildings this morning to assess the extent of the breakdown because their badges did not work to open the doors.”
Outages are not uncommon on social media, but it’s rare to see a blackout with so many interconnected apps offline simultaneously.
“We are aware that some people are having problems accessing our apps and products. We are working to get back to normal as soon as possible and we apologize for any inconvenience,” was limited to saying Facebook, which walked in recent days for a another level of technical integration between “family” applications.
Brian Krebs, an expert journalist on digital security, summarized the scenario in this tweet:
“Confirmed: The DNS records that tell systems how to find http://Facebook.com or http://Instagram.com were removed this morning from the global routing tables. Can you imagine working on FB now, when your email doesn’t does it work anymore and all your built-in FB-based tools fail?”
If it’s really a DNS issue, what caused this failure?
Nobody knows yet. It may have been a systems update that had an unexpected effect. There are reports on technology expert forums that a simple miscalculated change could have caused all this chaos.
Dane Knecht, vice president of the server company cloudflare, said on his Twitter profile that Facebook’s global downfall would have to do with DNS and that “the routes BGP” from the company “were taken off the internet”.
BGP means Border Gateway Protocol (Protocol of the Frontier Gate, in free translation). This is the system that decides on which route your data will travel until you reach your chosen destination.
It’s like Waze: when you type www.uol.com.br in the browser address bar and press Enter (or open WhatsApp on mobile), the BGP it is the protocol that evaluates the possible paths you can take to reach the desired server.
If the BGP leaves off the air, as seems to be the case with Facebook on Monday, the platform is “without direction” and can no longer find its way between the user and the service he wants to access.
It couldn’t have been a hacker attack?
Unlikely. Facebook’s servers are very well protected, and so far, no hacker group has taken an attack or shown evidence of anything like it.
What other apps can I use?
These are the main alternative messaging application options.
WhatsApp’s biggest competitor could not be left out of this list. Telegram has some unique features like screen sharing and streaming group video calls in addition to its famous channels.
Signal is open source, meaning it allows the security system to be tested by external and independent audits — something praised by experts. Furthermore, it is fully encrypted. The company is a non-profit organization that does not collect any user data. The functioning of the app is maintained by donations.
See more options here.
I’m having problems with Telegram, Gmail, Nubank and various apps… Is it the millennium bug?
There is no evidence that the same issue that caused Facebook to crash has affected other apps. What can happen is more people using alternative communication platforms and causing some instability or slowdown.
There is also the case of apps that depend on login with Facebook to continue — like the game “Pokemon Go” — that can feel some impact.