Thursday, 22 August 2013

Google and Amazon Go Dark: Could This be Linked?



Last Friday (16 Aug 2013), everything at Google went dark for just a couple of minutes.  When we say everything, that's exactly what we mean.  IT services, commercial applications – everything from Gmail to the Google Apps Dashboard was gone.

According to GoSquared and other analytics firms, the short outage was punctuated by a 40% drop in total Internet traffic.  That's shocking to some of us.  Thankfully, Google was back up and running within 5 minutes.  End of story?  Maybe not.

The following Monday retailing giant Amazon.com also endured an interruption of service in North America.  For about 30 minutes, users could not search for or purchase products, leave reviews, and manage seller accounts.  Amazon claimed their problem was an ‘internal error’ and in no way related to the Google issue just three days earlier.

Coincidence or Link?


The powers that be at both Google and Amazon are saying the outages are mere coincidence and that they are nothing to worry about.  We might be convinced except for one small problem:  there have been other inexplicable outages among major corporations over the last several days.  These outages seem to come and go without warning and, to date, without explanation.

Among the other companies hit so far are the New York Times, Intel and Microsoft.  Adding even more fuel to the speculative fire is a recent announcement that the New York Times is once again the subject of attacks by unidentified hackers, believed to be from China.

The one thing that hasn't been observed are widespread outages among hosting companies and commercial data centres offering networking services to smaller companies.  The outages seem to be focused on big-name players that maintain their own infrastructure.  It is also interesting to note that most of the outages occurred during peak operating hours.

Keep an Open Mind


It should be noted that it's still too early to tell whether all of these incidents are linked or not, and whether they are the result of nefarious individuals trying to wreak havoc on the networks of the Western world. Nonetheless, we would be foolish to ignore the incidents as mere coincidence.

We already know how serious an issue network security is all over the world. If nothing else, we should keep an open mind and investigate all of the outages thoroughly.  If they are being caused by hackers looking for ways to eventually take down the Internet, we can ill-afford to wait until it actually happens.  We need to be proactive in discovering the cause and eliminating it, whatever it might be.

If it turns out the outages were just ‘internal errors’ or hardware failures, we've nothing to fear.  We can continue going about our lives with all the benefits of Gmail, YouTube and the vast Internet shopping opportunities offered by Amazon.  We'll all be happy indeed.

Yet, if these outages turn out to be more than mere coincidences, they could have devastating effects on our way of life.  Should we leave that to ignorant bliss?

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