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How Do Major Internet Outages Happen?

Communication is key, and the internet has become a vital tool in bringing people together and allowing them to communicate and work with each other across the world.

So, what happens when it all comes down?

Over the past few years, there have been several internet outages that have caused major websites and services to become temporarily unavailable.

Due to the decentralised nature of the internet, this is not always the case for everyone, but it affects enough people to count as a major outage, and they can occur for a range of different reasons.

For example, in early June 2021, one internet outage was caused by a bug in content delivery network Fastly’s configuration options. This would cause many websites such as Amazon, Reddit and even Gov UK to display “Error 503 service unavailable” messages.

A content delivery network, or CDN, is intended to speed up loading times by creating a cached, easy to access version of a website in multiple locations, but if the CDN goes down it can take the website down with it.

Whilst many of the affected websites were back up within an hour, it highlighted the importance of fail safes and how a decentralised internet is becoming more centralised, with the potential for single points of failure causing major outages.

There are many different ways in which an internet outage can happen. Outside of blackouts enacted for political reasons, there were physical outages caused by damage to underwater fibre-optic cables, as well as outages caused by viruses such as Mirai and MyDoom.


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