Facebook Taken Down, Did ‘Anonymous’ Steal User Data?

Mark Zuckerberg said, in The Social Network: “Let me tell you the difference between Facebook and everybody else; we don’t crash – EVER!” That’s not quite right, as Mark’s site went offline or slowed down for various users around the world for two hours yesterday. Twitter was full of reports of Facebook being down from around 4.26pm PST on May 31. Some wags were compelled to comment: “Facebook is down. Just like its stock price.”

Facebook goes down, Anonymous may be responsible (update)

Some people who’d lost Facebook got it back pretty quickly, but scanning through DownForEveryoneOrJustMe shows that the outage carried on for large swathes of FB’s 900 million users, even though some had no problems at all.

Update 8.00am PST June 1: Facebook has refused to explain the outage, although the secretive group Anonymous, famous for taking down websites tweeted: “Looks like good old Facebook is having packet problems…#F***FaceBook | #OpFaceBook | #F***YourIPO”, and “Oh yeah…RIP FaceBook a new sound of tango down b*****.” Regardless of this boasting, we’ve heard reports that Anonymous didn’t cause the outage.

FaceBook’s IPO, which was documented mainly on Twitter, shows that FB users often turn to Twitter to express frustration with the FaceBook downtime. FB has problems so rarely that it seems to really send people into a spin. Twitter users, however, are used to its many short-lived glitches. Yesterday’s outage may have been caused by coordinated hacking, or it could have been due to an internal technical problem.

Eighty minutes after the outage started we found out that users in the US, Tunisia, Brazil and other regions lost Facebook service, but by then, many regions had started to get the service back, including my region. Just over an hour and a half after the downtime started it was looking like most people had it back, although there were isolated pockets still without.

Two hours after the disruption started things still weren’t back to normal as some US users and users elsewhere around the world were having problems, including some who’d recovered at around 6.00pm. By 8.00pm, a full 3.5 hours after the dropout started, FaceBook seemed to be recovered.

The jokes seemed to have helped FB’s shares, as their price was up by $1.41/5 points earlier today to close at $29.60. This price, however, is still 22% down on its IPO price. We’ll have to wait until tomorrow to see how the dropout affects its share price.

Update: The outage seems to have hurt FB’s shares, as they’re down $1.76 / 5.95% to $27.94 today. FaceBook told me: “Earlier today, some users briefly experienced issues loading the site. The issues have since been resolved and everyone should now have access to FaceBook. We apologize for any inconvenience.”

Anonymous didn’t explicitly claim responsibility, but it did use the phrase “tango down”, which is a CIA expression that means and important target has been killed. The group has used the term to boast about previous successful attacks. Anonymous could, therefore, have launched the attack that brought FaceBook to its knees for a number of hours. The attack could have been carried out independently by a splinter group of Anonymous. Sources close to the social network insist that the site wasn’t attacked, though. However if Anonymous was behind the attack, in their usual fashion they may have gone after personal data like with most of their attacks. It could also be the reason behind the  silency from Facebook so far.

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