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The Scourge of Global Internet Outages Continues

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Cyber Attack
(Image: Pixabay)

Last year, it seemed that nobody escaped the onslaught of outages. Google, Comcast, Route 53, AWS, GitHub, DE-CIX—one by one, these outages reduced the number of services available to users.

Major outages for the year included:

  • February 22: Multiple global financial trading sites reported outages or slowdowns on the Dow’s worst daily point drop to date.
  • March 1: GitHub weathered a massive DDoS attack that not only disrupted its service, but also caused collateral damage to other services.
  • March 2: AWS experienced another due to a power outage in Ashburn, VA.
  • May 31: AWS had yet another due to an ISP problem power outage that impacted AWS US-east-2.
  • April 13: A DE-CIX switch in Frankfurt, Germany, took down a large portion of the Internet for a major world economy.
  • April 24: AWS had multiple service outages, one involving the hijacking of its DNS service, Route 53.
  • June 29: Comcast claimed the most victims, with its fiber-cut outage cutting off or slowing down service for millions of Internet users—even beyond its customer base.
  • September 3: Facebook and Facebook-owned WhatsApp and Instagram all suffering outages, despite being hosted on different clouds.
  • November 12: One of the biggest outages of the year occurred when Google traffic was dropped and re-routed through Russia and China.

Many other services, such as Amazon, Slack, Twitter, Facebook went dark at some point, due to a network or application issue.

A recurring problem that will persist

If only last year were an anomaly. Unfortunately, it was not. Two years ago, Amazon, Comcast, Twitter and Netflix were effectively taken off the Internet for multiple hours by a DDoS attack because they all relied on a single DNS provider – Dyn, in their case.

Can it happen again? According to the 2018 ThousandEyes Global DNS Performance Report, 68 percent of the top 50 companies in the Fortune 500 and 72 percent of companies on the Financial Times Stock Exchange 100 are still at risk. Two years after the Dyn DDoS attack, you’d think digital companies would have learned their lesson, but apparently not so.

According to the report, many of the biggest companies on the planet – as well as 44 percent of the top 25 SaaS providers – don’t have a fallback DNS option. That means that a single outage or DDoS attack could completely take their businesses off the Internet.

Without DNS, there is no digital experience. It’s the least appreciated aspect of delivering online user experience, and the most overlooked chink in an enterprise’s armor.

Even digitally mature organizations can get DNS wrong by not following best practices around resiliency. It’s also a complex topic that most networking professionals haven’t spent enough time to understand.

The DNS expert community is select, but the need for awareness of DNS has grown as more businesses than ever rely on digital experiences in their revenue generation. According to Gartner, CIOs report that 37 percent of their revenues will be have a digital footprint by 2020. If DNS is the first step in every digital experience, then not getting that step right can be incredibly costly.

As for the lack of enterprise DNS resiliency, consider this analogy. Most IT professionals would never consider building a data center without backup power or redundant telecom or Internet connections. Further, most know that redundant connectivity isn’t truly redundant unless there is diversity of physical cable routes and facilities. But too many are just using a single DNS service. If that DNS service is lost, it doesn’t matter how much you spend on your CDN, your data center, or your cloud hosting. Your brand will be offline, and you’ll be scrambling.