Facebook’s 6-hour outage is the result of one small slip-up

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Facebook outage
Oops.
Photo: Sofitel/Flickr/Cult of Mac

“A faulty configuration change.” That’s all it takes to bring three of the world’s biggest social platforms to their knees for more than six hours, according to an apology issued by Facebook after Monday’s disastrous outage.

Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp became unavailable worldwide between approximately 9:15 a.m. PDT and 3:30 p.m. PDT on October 4. Facebook said it has no reason to believe user data was compromised during this time.

What happened to Facebook on Monday?

“To all the people and businesses around the world who depend on us, we are sorry for the inconvenience caused by today’s outage across our platforms,” read the statement issued Monday evening.

Facebook suffered plenty of outages in the past, but the downtime usually affects a small number of people for a short period of time. Yesterday’s outage proved different. It hit every platform owned by Facebook — and dragged on for hours.

It also came a day after whistleblower Frances Haugen went public on 60 Minutes with accusations that Facebook repeatedly “chooses profit over safety.” Haugen’s testimony during a Senate hearing Tuesday likely will bolster calls for regulating the social network.

Facebook execs remained pretty quiet during Monday’s downtime, leaving us all to speculate about what happened. And the longer Facebook stayed down, the more it looked like a pretty serious failure — or even an outside attack.

As it turns out, little more than “a faulty configuration change” caused problems between the “backbone routers that coordinate traffic” among Facebook’s data centers.

No evidence of a data breach

“We want to make clear at this time we believe the root cause of this outage was a faulty configuration change,” the statement said. “We also have no evidence that user data was compromised as a result of this downtime.”

That’s good news for those who were worried Facebook may have been under attack, or that someone else may be getting their hands on user data. (Not that Facebook does a great job of keeping it safe anyway.)

But it’s pretty incredible that one seemingly minor mistake is all it takes to put Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp — which are used by more than 3 billion people every single day — out of business for more than six hours. Facebook co-founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s fortune reportedly dropped $7 billion during Monday’s outage.

I certainly wouldn’t want to be the person who made that configuration change today.