We have built one of the most amazing infrastructures in the past 40 years … the Internet. But, it is built on sand and could come crumbling down at any minute. There are often services, such as DNS and IP routing, which provide a fundamental part of the access to Internet services, and if they fail, large parts of the Internet can fail with them.
And so this morning, just before 8am (UK time), I was testing some of my new ciphers, when I received this:
As I was coding, I assume it was my error, so I restarted my service, and then rebooted the server, but nothing would work. But, looking close, I could see it was a Linux error, and not for the Web service that I use. Basically, it was my proxy — Cloudflare — that had crashed. And it didn’t just crash for me, it took a large part of the Internet out:
If you don’t know Cloudflare, then you might not know that they create proxy systems that allow many companies to cope with DDoS attacks:
When it works, Cloudflare is a truly excellent service, but it has a track record of falling over, and which can cause a great deal of problems. In fact, Downdetector went down, but eventually, it came back but showed that many sites were having problems. This included Discord, NordVPN, Just Eat and Ring:
And, so, the distributed Internet that was envisioned by the DARPA project has not quite happened, and we have centralised many of our services.
And the lesson? Have a mitigation strategy for your online services, and be ready to switch over. For me, it would have been to switch my DNS back to my Cloud provider, but luckily the outage was only for around 15 minutes, so I didn’t to do this. But, it brings into focus how reliant we are on the Internet for our modern world. The pandemic changed things in a fundamental way, and the Internet is now a core part of our lives as our energy and transport networks.