Major outage hits major websites as 911 services go down in multiple East Coast cities

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The major internet outage affecting the websites of major retail, financial, logistics and travel websites, was not the result of a cyberattack, according to the hosting provider responsible for the disruption. 

Akamai Technologies, a global content delivery network, said in a statement that a software update had triggered a bug in its DNS service resulting in the outages, and confirmed that the issue was not the result of a cyberattack. 

Down Detector, a service that detects whether websites are working properly or not, began reporting a series of at least 50 major website outages shortly before 12pm EST on Thursday.

The websites of UPS, Delta Air Lines, Costco, American Express and Home Depot were down, displaying domain name system (DNS) service errors.  

An outage map for Akamai shows the areas with the most reports of issues. An issue with Akamai's global content delivery network appears to be behind a major internet outage

An outage map for Akamai shows the areas with the most reports of issues. An issue with Akamai’s global content delivery network appears to be behind a major internet outage

Costco's website was among those affected in what appeared to be a widespread internet outage on Thursday

Costco’s website was among those affected in what appeared to be a widespread internet outage on Thursday

 

Backbone service provider Akamai Technologies appeared to be the source of the outage. The company said that it had fixed the service disruption by 12.47pm

Backbone service provider Akamai Technologies appeared to be the source of the outage. The company said that it had fixed the service disruption by 12.47pm

Major sites affected in Thursday’s outage

  • UPS
  • Delta Air Lines
  • American Express
  • Home Depot
  • Costco
  • Airbnb
  • HBO Max
  • US Bank
  • Fox News 
  • FedEx 
  • American Airlines
  • Home Depot
  • DraftKings 
  • McDonald’s 
  • Southwest Airlines
  • Fidelity
  • Vanguard 

Akamai runs a global network of servers and rents out space on them to customers who want their websites to load faster, by distributing content from locations closer to end users. 

Last month, a similar issue with one of Akamai’s competitors Fastly was blamed for a separate widespread internet outage. 

Among the other potentially affected websites on Thursday were Airbnb, US Bank, FedEx, UPS, Fox News, American Airlines, Delta Air Lines, AT&T, Groupon, Expedia, HBO Max and TikTok, according to Down Detector.

The filings page of the US Securities and Exchange Commission also displayed a message saying that it was ‘temporarily unavailable’.

A number of global financial institutions also appeared to be impacted, including Interactive Brokers, Santander Bank, BBVA and BB&T.

Down Detector tweeted that Amazon Web Services and Oracle Cloud are also having problems, but the Amazon Web Services website appeared to be working normally.

Oracle Corp said it was monitoring the global issue related to a cloud-based DNS solution provider impacting access to many internet resources, including its own cloud services. 

About 3,500 users reported issues with Airbnb’s website, while nearly 1,500 Home Depot users reported problems, according to Down Detector.  

A diagram shows how Akamai's distributed network of servers (orange) help speed the delivery of content to end users, a service that helps websites load faster

A diagram shows how Akamai’s distributed network of servers (orange) help speed the delivery of content to end users, a service that helps websites load faster

What is DNS service?

Domain name system (DNS) is a service that translates readable domain names to machine readable IP addresses.

DNS servers allow internet users to connect to a website by typing the name of the site in and translating it to the right IP address. 

A DNS outage means that an internet user’s browser is unable to find the right server to deliver a website’s content. 

Other websites that were impacted included Microsoft, Evernote, Go Daddy, Vanguard and a number of other tech or financial-centric domains, according to Down Detctor.

Akamai Technologies, a global content delivery network that provides backbone internet services, said in a statement that ‘a software configuration update triggered a bug in the DNS system, the system that directs browsers to websites.’ 

‘This caused a disruption impacting availability of some customer websites,’ the company said.

DNS is a service that translates text domain names (such as Costco.com) to machine-readable IP addresses, connecting it to a server and delivering the requested page on the user’s phone or laptop. 

The disruption lasted up to an hour. Upon rolling back the software configuration update, the services resumed normal operations,’ Akamai said.

‘Akamai can confirm this was not a cyberattack against Akamai’s platform,’ the company added.

‘We apologize for the inconvenience that resulted. We are reviewing our software update process to prevent future disruptions,’ the statement said. 

In June, multiple outages hit social media, government and news websites across the globe, with some reports pointing to a glitch at Akamai’s competitor Fastly.  

Fastly said at the time the issues experienced on June 8 were down to an ‘undiscovered software bug’ in its system which was triggered by a single unnamed customer who updated their settings. 

The filings website of the SEC was seen to be 'temporarily unavailable' on Thursday

The filings website of the SEC was seen to be ‘temporarily unavailable’ on Thursday

Down Detector also indicated issued with Airbnb's site amid the widespread outage

Down Detector also indicated issued with Airbnb’s site amid the widespread outage

GoDaddy and Airbnb were among the sites with reported issued on Thursday

GoDaddy and Airbnb were among the sites with reported issued on Thursday

Meanwhile, in what appears to be a separate issue, at least nine counties and three cities in Virginia reported 911 outages or call issues on Thursday.

‘There appears to be a multi-state 911 outage. The issue is being addressed,’ the Rockbridge County Fire-Rescue & Emergency Management said in a statement. 

In Campbell County, Virginia, the Department of Public Safety said all service to the county’s 911 and non-emergency phone lines has been disrupted.

The emergency services outage appeared to be unrelated to the internet issues, with WSET-TV reporting that a cut fiber optic cable in Greyson County was potentially to blame. 

The Greyson County Sheriff’s Office said that CenturyLink was working to restore the cut fiber in the Marion area.

However, conflicting reports suggested that at least some of the 911 outages in Virginia were related to the Akamai incident.  

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