Tech issue, not cyberattack, causes major websites worldwide to go down
By Rich Barak – The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Tim Darnell – Atlanta Journal-Constitution
The Associated Press
Multiple websites went offline briefly across the globe Tuesday after an outage at the cloud service company Fastly, a San Francisco-based cloud computing services provider that serves many major news organizations and companies.
Dozens of sites including The New York Times, CNN, some Amazon sites, Twitch, Reddit, the Guardian and the U.K. government’s homepage could not be reached. In Asia, cities including Hong Kong and Singapore were also affected, with users unable to access the CNN website. In China, where most foreign media websites are blocked, there was little discussion on the outage on social media platforms such as Weibo.
Fastly acknowledged the problem just before 6 a.m. ET. It said in repeated updates on its website that it was “continuing to investigate the issue.” Shortly after 7 a.m. it said a “fix for global CDN disruption issue has been applied.”
The company said it was a “technical issue” and “not related to a cyber attack.”
A number of sites that were hit early came back online.
Visitors trying to access CNN.com got a message that said: “Fastly error: unknown domain: cnn.com.” Attempts to access the Financial Times website turned up a similar message, while visits to The New York Times and U.K. government’s gov.uk site returned an “Error 503 Service Unavailable” message, along with the line “Varnish cache server,” which is a technology that Fastly is built on.
DownDetector, which tracks internet outages, said: “Reports indicate there may be a widespread outage at Fastly, which may be impacting your service.” Many Amazon Web Service outages also were being reported.
As of 6:20 a.m. ET, The New York Times, Bloomberg and Amazon were down, but the sites were back up by 6:40 a.m.
The widespread outages reportedly were linked to a problem at Fastly, according to Jon Stone, a policy correspondent at Independent.
Other companies including Twitter, Target, Shopify and Spotify reported internet issues.
An Amazon Web Services issue in November affected many of the nation’s most popular news sites, including AJC.com.
The organizations were saddled by website and app connection issues in November due to a widespread Amazon Web Services outage.
All major futures markets in the U.S. dipped sharply minutes after the outage hit almost exactly a month after a cyberattack that caused the operator of the largest fuel pipeline in the U.S. to halt its operations.
Internet traffic measurement by Kentik showed that Fastly began to recover from the outage roughly an hour after it struck at midmorning European time — and before most Americans were awake.
“Looks like it is slowly coming back,” said Doug Madory, an internet infrastructure expert at Kentik. He said “it is serious because Fastly is one of the world’s biggest CDNs and this was a global outage.”
Fastly is a content delivery network. It provides vital but behind-the-scenes cloud computing “edge servers” to many of the web’s popular sites. These servers store, or “cache,” content such as images and video in places around the world so they are closer to users, allowing them to fetch it more quickly and smoothly instead of having to access the site’s original server. Fastly says its services mean that a European user going to an American website can get the content from 200 to 500 milliseconds faster.
The impact of Fastly’s trouble highlights the relative fragility of the internet’s current architecture given its heavy reliance on Big Tech companies — such as Amazon’s AWS cloud services — as opposed to a more decentralized model.
DownDetector, which tracks internet outages, posted reports on dozens of sites going down and said “there may be a widespread outage at Fastly.”