Widespread Internet Outage Affects Major Websites

Several major websites, including those of the British government, The New York Times, CNN, The Financial Times and The Guardian, were briefly inaccessible for many users on Tuesday morning.

According to Downdetector.com, which tracks internet disruptions, sites including Etsy, Hulu, PayPal, Reddit, Twitch and Twitter also reported problems.

Many of the affected sites appeared to have been restored after a little less than an hour.

The outage was connected to Fastly, a provider of cloud computing services used by scores of companies to improve the speed and reliability of their websites. Fastly later said on its website that the issue had been identified and that a fix was being made.

Fastly works on technology known as a content delivery network, which is a highly distributed network of servers used to reduce the distance between a server and user, and increase the speed at which a website loads.

The technology is thought to improve reliability because it distributes the delivery of a website to many locations, rather than depending on a central data center. Fastly did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Tuesday.

Widespread internet outages are less common today than years ago, as Google and other major tech companies develop interconnected data centers that improve performance, but there have been a number of incidents over the last year.

In December, Google services including Gmail, Maps and YouTube crashed for about an hour. The company attributed the problem to an “authentication system outage.” And in January, Slack, the popular workplace messaging platform used by millions of people worldwide, experienced a major disruption in which users could not send messages, load channels, make calls or log in to the service.

Outages like the one on Tuesday, in which many of the affected sites belonged to news outlets, often hit businesses in the same sector because they rely on the same third-party services, said Marie Vasek, a lecturer in information security at University College London.

“All of these websites really depended on this one third-party service, and the slight disruption in that caused this disproportionate effect,” Dr. Vasek said.

Madeline Carr, the director of the Research Institute for Sociotechnical Cyber Security, which focuses on the security of organizations, said that companies that provide the infrastructure for websites can be slow to provide details when they experience internal failures or are the victims of cyberattacks. That is in part because their main selling point to clients is their reliability, she said.

“There does need to be a level of accountability,” said Dr. Carr, also a professor of cybersecurity at University College London. “In the last generation of cybersecurity, it was about ensuring websites were protected or had adequate security, but when you’re talking about something like Fastly, in a sense it doesn’t matter how secure your own website is,” she said, since so many websites depend on it.


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