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Tuesday, 05 October 2021 05:59

BGP woes: Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp disappear from the Web Featured

BGP woes: Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp disappear from the Web Pixabay

The A and AAA domain name system records for Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp have disappeared, leading to the blackout of the three sites from the Internet, in what appears to be a problem caused by a border gateway protocol mistake.

In a message posted about an hour ago [4.37am AEDT], a Twitter user mentioned the nuking of the records, adding sarcastically, "And suddenly millions of retired boomers are having to speak to their spouses for the first time in years."

Unable to post a message on its own media statements site due to the outage, Facebook said in a tweet: "We’re aware that some people are having trouble accessing our apps and products. We’re working to get things back to normal as quickly as possible, and we apologize for any inconvenience." Update: Facebook begins to come back

About two hours ago, Cloudflare vice-president Dane Knecht posted a tweet about the outage, saying: " @Facebook DNS and other services are down. It appears their BGP [border gateway protocol] routes have been withdrawn from the Internet. @ Cloudflare started seeing high failure in last 20mins."

Judging from queries made by this writer, Instagram appears to be recovering, while the other two sites are still not accessible.

host resolution

John Graham-Cumming, the chief technology officer of Cloudflare, said: "About five minutes before Facebook's DNS stopped working we saw a large number of BGP changes (mostly route withdrawals) for Facebook's ASN."

Every ISP advertises the routes for which it is authorised to carry traffic. When it comes to inter-carrier routing, carriers often need to send traffic to each other.

BGP is the protocol through which this is managed, allowing each carrier to broadcast what IP address ranges or prefixes should be sent to them.

But since the security of the protocol is not very good, one carrier can announce incorrect prefixes; this effectively means taking over the address ranges of another provider and taking them down.

It means that a carrier can switch off a number of other providers if they wished to do so.

Graham-Cumming added: "Between 15:50 UTC [2.30am AEDT] and 15:52 UTC Facebook and related properties disappeared from the Internet in a flurry of BGP updates."

And he added: "And so, Facebook etc. are down, and teams @Cloudflare have to get spun up to make sure things keep running smoothly during the onslaught.

"Good reminder that the Internet is a network of networks that works through standards and co-operation."

British security expert Kevin Beaumont said in a tweet: "Also heard this. Facebook have lost their LAN/WAN due to networking woes so there are a ton of knock on impacts.

"It’s basically a core network failure for them (which I’ve been through at other companies, not pretty, will take hours for recovery)."

The last time there were issues caused by BGP mistakes was in April last year, when Russian Internet service provider Rostelecom advertised routes through BGP which belong to big Internet players like Google, Facebook, Akamai, Cloudflare, Hetzner, Digital Ocean and Amazon AWS.

The advertising of these routes went on for almost an hour, according to a blog post at the time by Andree Toonk, the founder of BGPmon, a service that is owned by Cisco and monitors BGP routing information in real-time. It affected 8870 network prefixes belonging to almost 200 autonomous systems.

Beaumont said the BGP configuration snafu appeared to be an "epic" one. "This one looks like a pretty epic configuration error, Facebook basically don't exist on the internet right now," he wrote in a tweet.

"Even their authoritative name server ranges have been BGP withdrawn."

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Sam Varghese

Sam Varghese has been writing for iTWire since 2006, a year after the site came into existence. For nearly a decade thereafter, he wrote mostly about free and open source software, based on his own use of this genre of software. Since May 2016, he has been writing across many areas of technology. He has been a journalist for nearly 40 years in India (Indian Express and Deccan Herald), the UAE (Khaleej Times) and Australia (Daily Commercial News (now defunct) and The Age). His personal blog is titled Irregular Expression.

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