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Our so-called cloud life: Expect more internet outages like Fastly’s and protect yourself

Our so-called cloud life: Expect more internet outages like Fastly's and protect yourself


Our so-called cloud life: Expect more internet outages like Fastly’s and protect yourself

Worldwide internet outage linked to content delivery network FastlyA leading internet content delivery service experienced an outage on its platform, which may have taken dozens of websites offline.PA Media – News, PA Media – NewsThe internet took a hit early Tuesday with a short-lived, but massive outage shuttering online destinations as diverse as Amazon, Google, Reddit, Twitch, USA TODAY, CNN, The New York Times, the Financial Times and the U.K. government website. Within an hour or so, cloud content company Fastly corrected the error and sites began operating again.Expect such outages to be the norm because this wasn’t the first time – nor will it be the last – in which online outages wreak havoc with our everyday lives.With more and more data and services moving online amid a growing network of computer hubs across the U.S. and the world, issues will arise due to glitches and mechanical failures – or worse, from bad actors such as hackers and ransomware purveyors.Broadband: Millions of people in rural America desperately need connectivityAmazon Sidewalk: Amazon internet sharing network goes live today. Here’s how to opt outStill, we continue to adopt an increasingly digital lifestyle, with more functionality on mobile devices – Apple on Monday proposed putting driver’s licenses, as well as home and car keys, into iPhones. And most of us don’t really think about or understand, the technology behind this digital lifestyle.And this connected existence is not as robust, reliable and secure as you might think. Just as subways may run slower than expected or trains derail, so can there be incidents on the information highway. “It’s a scary reminder of the double-edged sword around the digital transformation,” said Daniel Ives, managing director of equity research at Wedbush Securities. “It’s just a few dominoes that could shut everything down.”Over the years, we have grown to expect Netflix and Disney+ to almost instantaneously deliver “The Queen’s Gambit” or “The Mandalorian” with a click. And we expect news to be available on demand 24/7 on sites such as CNN, Bloomberg, or CNET – destinations also affected Tuesday.”We just assume all this stuff is here all the time. I think the purveyors of our digital lives have gone out of their way to made us feel like it’s always there,” said Shelly Palmer, CEO at The Palmer Group, a tech strategy advisory group, and author of “Blockchain – Cryptocurrency, NFTs & Smart Contracts: An executive guide to the world of decentralized finance.”Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos “has reduced every ounce of friction from you buying something. Mark Zuckerberg has reduced every ounce of friction they can about you posting something on a social network,” Palmer said. “The only time people think about this experience is when it goes away.”Cybersecurity attacks: 5 things you can do right now to protect yourselfCybersecurity:When a top cybersecurity firm gets hacked, what is the takeaway for the average netizen?How do internet shutdowns happen?This latest incident occurred due to a problem at Fastly, a San Francisco-headquartered content delivery network that supports websites for companies such as The New York Times, GitHub, Pinterest and others. It has deployed thousands of computer servers across the U.S. and the globe so that content is easily accessed by consumers.We identified a service configuration that triggered disruptions across our POPs globally and have disabled that configuration. Our global network is coming back online. Continued status is available at— Fastly (@fastly) June 8, 2021There are just a few major content delivery networks like Fastly, including Amazon, Akamai and Cloudflare. Each has redundancies built into their networks, but problems can arise. An Amazon Web Services outage in November 2020 took down the video game “League of Legends” and Sirius XM satellite radio and also affected Roku and Amazon’s Ring doorbell. AWS had similar outages in 2015 and 2017.”I think that these crash so infrequently, it’s news when it happens,” Palmer said. “The goal here is speed … You want to see your video immediately pressing a button. You want everything to work beautifully and smoothly. The way you do that is you cache (or store) content as close to the user as possible. That’s what a content distribution network does.”Normally, the work a content delivery network does, helps “content pop up on your screen in seconds,” tweeted Corinne Cath-Speth, a doctoral student at the Oxford Internet Institute, in a description of how such outages happen. “So when those @fastly services fail or falter – it has major ramifications for everyone’s internet experience. Keep in mind that this market is relatively small and each company serves a large number of clients,” she tweeted.Why is your internet broken today? A thread from an @oii dr. of Internet infrastructure:TL;DR–bc the #internet has material limits & business and consumers want their content ASAP, which means it needs to be physically close. 1/9#internetdown #internet #cdn— Dr. Corinne Cath-Speth (@C___CS) June 8, 2021All this works as it should more than 99% of the time. How much more would a company have to spend to improve that to nearly 100%? Probably too much, Palmer said.”Everybody has some way they calculate high availability of services,” he said. Banks, for instance, must attempt to get as close to 100% as possible, Palmer said. But if you are “delivering a movie or you are a social network where the ‘like’ button has to work, seriously how important is it?”While the scale and scope of the outage were “jaw-dropping,” Ives said, the damage appears to be “contained.”But coming out of a pandemic “we are just that much more reliant on the cloud and a few providers from a data center perspective,” he said. “The worry is what happens next time. And bad actors and malicious attackers have definitely taken note” of the outage and assessed potential vulnerabilities, Ives said.What can you do?Each of us should use this recent event to consider our own situation. Think about how often there are online outages that could affect you. Connectivity programs such as Microsoft Teams and Slack have had outages recently. So have social networks such as Facebook and Instagram.  (Do you have phone numbers or emails for co-workers, friends, or family you might need to contact during downtime?)Many of us store personal files in the cloud and those networks such as Google Cloud and Apple’s iCloud can have outages, too. You might want to have multiple ways to save important files, photos and other data. In addition to storing them in the cloud, have them on an external drive or USB drive.If you have more than one computer, have copies on both devices in case one is infected. And consider encrypting files for added protection.That could come in handy should you become a victim of ransomware or malware, as major fuel supplier Colonial Pipeline and meat producer JBS S.A. have recently. “It’s all the same thing,” Palmer said. “These are teachable moments about how vulnerable we are … and how deeply we have come to rely on our connectivity and how out of control of it we really are.”Follow Mike Snider on Twitter: @MikeSnider.

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