Last Monday, there was a worldwide outage of one of the biggest companies in the world. Users were unable to access the Facebook social media site, its Messaging system, WhatsApp, Instagram and even game using their Oculus VR systems. This outage also impacted any site that offers Facebook log in (such as games like Pokémon Go). The outage also impacted the infrastructure of Facebook itself; where the Facebook employees couldn’t access their systems, message one another or, in some cases, even access their buildings. Needless to say, this was massive. And really, it highlights the massive importance of Cyber Security and infrastructure resiliency.
This blog post will be information heavy, but we will aim to deliver it in the best way possible, to ensure that you understand what happened, why it happened and why it matters to you.
An overview of what happened.
At just before 5pm GMT, the above-mentioned apps and services (all owned and run by Facebook) went offline. This wasn’t just a small outage, this was worldwide, impacting everyone from the USA to Europe, Australia and beyond. It was massive and showcased a massive loss in communication across multiple platforms.
It highlighted the way that we communicate, which is completely intertwined with Facebook. Suddenly, friends and family could no longer be contacted. Who texts these days? People tend to use things such as Facebook Messenger, because we don’t commonly save numbers onto phones anymore – and the people who do have numbers saved? WhatsApp was down. So, goodbye to group chats and organisation projects.
To be a little theatrical for a second, this plunged the world into a communication nightmare. Imagine trying to contact your loved ones across the world when you either didn’t have their number saved, didn’t have the money to spend sending an international text back and forth, or to make an international phone call. These issues weren’t resolved until roughly 11pm GMT.
Further to the communication impact, this meant that companies west of the UK (including those within the Facebook offices themselves) were unable to work. The largest hit of all of these were to the much smaller scale companies that rely on social media for their income. These companies are often small and family run, which rely on social media word of mouth marketing to make a profit. When this happened, these businesses were no longer able to trade for almost an entire business day, leading to loss of business.
This really happened. This isn’t just a thought up scenario. In the Americas, this outage occurred at roughly 11am, meaning systems won’t have gone back up until roughly 5/6pm their time. Times Magazine reported on this and stated that the potential catastrophe of this could have come from both the lack of traffic as well as the inability to contact their customers outside of those social media accounts – and for something that was out of their own control. This report also noted several of these small business owners concluding that they will have to look into their own resiliency measures that don’t rely on Facebook infrastructure. (In this sense, they were looking at things like podcasts and their own websites). Times Magazine noted that; “Coming up with a backup plan now seems smarter than ever.”
Facebook lost roughly $50 billion due to this outage (according to the Telegraph), and Mark Zuckerberg himself potentially has lost $6 billion of his own net worth (according to the BBC). It’s important to reiterate that this occurred after only 6 hours. It’s not hard to imagine the financial impact on these smaller companies. Now put yourself and your business into these shoes; what would happen to your business if it suddenly went down?
Why is this so important?
Facebook are amongst the top companies in the world (Collectively known as GAFAM, which stands for Google, Amazon, Facebook, Apple and Microsoft). The outage impacted on over 3.5 billion users (according to Sky News). We’ve stated a few times that this is significant. The outage also saw a drive in traffic to direct competitors to Facebook. Users flocked to Twitter, and there was an increase in sign ups to WhatsApp competitor, Signal.
The large-scale impact was down their infrastructure, and ultimately of lack of resiliency planning. Facebook runs everything through its own systems. It’s highly probable that they didn’t feel that anything would be able to penetrate it, or be able to shut the service down to such a large scale. It’s also important to note that this isn’t the first time that Facebook and it’s systems have gone down, and just a few days after this massive outage, they went down again (reported by the Independent).
But this brings awareness to the importance of always being aware, and being one step ahead, of your own business vulnerabilities and processes. Are you sure that your infrastructure is watertight? Are you aware of what’s going on surrounding threats? Are you constantly adapting and evolving your security protocols?
To simply work out the cost of downtime to your business, here is a simple calculation you can take:
Cost of downtime = Number of employees impacted x their average hourly rate x % of which their productivity has been impacted
Also remember the costs for any support charges to get you back up and running.
Could this have been prevented?
Yes. Absolutely. We keep coming back to this fact, but the major impact came from Facebook’s own infrastructure and lack of resiliency planning. There should have been fail safes in place in the event of an outage such as this – whether it was deemed as likely or unlikely. No matter how strong you believe your own infrastructure is, there is always room to implement a resiliency plan.
KubeNet are a Datto Gold partner. We are also a Cisco Premier partner, and offer Cisco Umbrella within our cyber and network security offerings. Additionally, we do the hard work for you, staying on top of threats before they develop in order to unsure that you, and ourselves, are protected.
We do offer free trials of our Datto and Cisco Umbrella products, reach out to find out more!
How can you keep yourself safe?
First, we can’t stress enough how important it is to plan for resiliency. Threats are only growing, and every business, no matter the size or the industry are potential targets. And cyber attacks are occurring all the time – Just a few days after the Facebook outage, streaming website Twitch (owned by Amazon) had a significantly large data breach, which we will also be diving into in a future blog post.
KubeNet are here to support you and to keep your business safe. It’s what we do best. With a range of Cloud, Cyber Security and Infrastructure services alongside our Telephony and Unified Communications, we’re the experts. Keep your business up and running, and prevent loss of business before it happens.
Get in touch now to find out more about how we can help you and your business, or to find out more about Cisco Umbrella.
Call us on 0344 873 4488 or email us at email@example.com