Facebook’s fall: a crash, hackers or the first volleys of a real cyber war?

MOSCOW, 07 Oct 2021, RUSSTRAT Institute.

Until September 4, 2021, the collapse of the world due to the collapse of the global social network was considered as the topic of cinematic cyberpunk. At 7pm last Monday evening, “when Facebook collapsed”, it turned out that it wasn’t so funny.

And it’s not even about the money here. Although they were also noted in the incident. For example, shares of the world’s largest social network on the American NASDAQ stock exchange fell by 5.3%, to $324.8 for a share, by 9:30pm Moscow time, thereby making Mark Zuckerberg $6.6 billion poorer in one day. Now in the ranking of the richest people in the world according to Forbes, he is no longer third, but sixth.

A number of domestic experts say that in the eight hours that Facebook was not working, the losses of the Russian economy amounted to approximately 560 million rubles. However, this is only an unearned profit from stopping sales of goods and services tied to a social network.

Something else is much more important. More than a day has passed since the crash of Facebook, and no one has been able to explain the reasons for what happened and its mechanism. At the moment, four “most likely” possibilities are being discussed.

The first one, as always, comes down to the largest hacker attack in the history of the Internet. Late in the evening, on September 4,  the previously unknown hacker group took responsibility for the collapse of Instagram and WhatsApp, which are part of the same Facebook corporation. In support of its words, it posted about 600 terabytes of Facebook users’ and internal information on the hacker forum.

Another unknown person put up for sale a database with information about one and a half billion FB users, with network accounts, passwords, emails, phone numbers and geolocation. As stated, they can be purchased by anyone, allegedly for $5,000 per million records.

Theoretically, this may resemble to the truth. And it even led to the appearance of caustic memes about “the Moscow court, which gave Facebook a delay until October 4 to pay a fine”. However, this does not fit the well-known and authentic information about outages in TikTok, Twitter and Google, as well as in some American banks and world exchanges.

Other experts say that Zuckerberg broke the system himself. In his blog, cybersecurity expert Brian Krebs wrote that, according to his sources, “on Monday evening” Facebook updated the BGP protocol records together with DNS, which was the key cause of the failure.

Due to a certain error when reloading data, all the services and services of FB, as well as related projects, simultaneously ceased to be found by search queries. Mark Zuckerberg and technical director Mike Schroepfer apologise to users for the inconvenience, but in one voice declare that there was no hacker attack on FB. Just “someone did something in a crooked way”, due to which everything “broke”.

One could also agree with this possibility, if one does not take into account one “but”. The Facebook system relies on hundreds of data centres with tens of thousands of servers. As it became known to journalists, the management of FB sent a team of service engineers to each of them to restart the servers literally manually. This “little error” must have turned out to be somehow too big.

Especially in light of the fact that, 15 minutes before the “collapse”, an anonymous person posted a warning on the 4chan website that a massive shutdown of social networks would begin immediately after noon, North American Eastern time, and that nothing can be done about it anymore.

The fourth possibility, “conspiracy” in nature, as some experts call such approaches, was outlined yesterday, November 5, by Deputy director of the RUSSTRAT Institute Yury Baranchik on his Telegram channel:

“The new world power centre shows itself and its capabilities for the second time in two years”

Against the background of yesterday’s global crisis of information networks and telecommunications systems, the attempts of sleepy Joe to show himself as the president of America seem particularly ridiculous. The White House is no longer the centre of power. And the meme of the communists ‘Washington Regional Committee’ can be safely scrapped.

The new centre of power, which is able to organise both the coronavirus pandemic, and its information support, and the ‘loss’ of the source codes of the DNS of social networks, is clearly showing itself to the world. They were hanging there, didn’t touch anyone for so many years, and then, bam, they just disappeared. Mysticism. Fantasy. Pwuzzle. Cwossword.

By the way, a very interesting opinion about yesterday’s failure of global information networks and systems.

Today, we can say with all calm confidence that the coronavirus was the first stage of the command and staff exercises of the new centre of power. Depriving people and organisations of traditional sources of information and communication (social networks and telecommunication channels), without a doubt, is the second stage of it. What will become the third one?”.

In general, outwardly everything gives the impression of a sudden total collapse, the reasons for which in reality no one understands. Fortunately, it turned out to be relatively easy to overcome it. Except that the employees of the central office of FB could not get to their workplaces for more than an hour and a half, since the admission system also turned out to be closely tied to the profiles of FB, which is why it stopped responding. And, of course, economists will now consider the fantastic figures of their beloved “lost profits”. But in general, nothing apocalyptic, as it was liked to show it in the cinema, did not happen.

However, the incident made us think about the degree of vulnerability of the real economy. And also about the fact that almost all the leading countries of the world report on the creation of cybernetic troops “sharpened” to wage war in cyberspace. And any troops, this is also the development of appropriate weapons and exercises on their use. Including in the “as close as possible to combat” mode.

Elena Panina, director of the RUSSTRAT Institute, also spoke  a few months ago about the threat of the uncontrolled existence of social networks: “The head of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation, Sergey Lavrov, speaking at the 46th session of the UN Human Rights Council, called for developing rules for regulating social networks at the national and international levels, “and not hiding behind corporate rules of private business”.

Social networks have become a powerful tool that is used to overthrow governments and organise colour revolutions’. They have mutated into digital atomic bombs in private hands.

All this suggests that when developing new rules for their activities, it is necessary to take as a basis international treaties regulating the operation of weapons of mass destruction. The adoption of mandatory and tough measures today becomes the most important task for sovereign states if they do not want to be crushed by corporations.”

So, the third possibility should not be dismissed – someone really conducted similar exercises “last Monday”. Because  the most stable social networks in the world has been knocked out with surgical preciseness.

Institute for International Political and Economic Strategies – RUSSTRAT

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