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Facebook and Instagram recovering, but was it really an attack?

Facebook and Instagram were in a bad shape as us Brits slept soundly in our beds, with a lot of users unable to sign into their accounts. And of course, as the services find their feet again this morning, there’s an awful lot of suspicion and debate on the reasons why.

At first it was suspected that a DDOS attack had nixed Facebook and its sister site Instagram, as well as Tinder, AOL Messenger and Hipchat, after IPViking showed a boatload of online denial of service traffic aimed at locations in North America, from places like South America, China and Russia. However, it now appears that these attacks may not have caused the outage after all.

Initial outrage at not being able to share photos of meals and humorous videos of dancing cats gave way to concern, when the now infamous hacking collective, Lizard Squad, took to Twitter to mention the downtime.

“Facebook, Instagram, Tinder, AIM, Hipchat #offline #LizardSquad,” their tweet read, causing most folk to believe that they were responsible.

But now that the dust has settled, it appears that the downtime may have been due to a system fault rather than a dedicated attack.

Rory Cellan-Jones, technology correspondent for the BBC, tweeted: “Facebook says outage not due to attack but ‘instead occurred after we introduced a change that affected our configuration systems’”, and a statement followed confirming this take on events.

“Earlier this evening many people had trouble accessing Facebook and Instagram. This was not the result of a third party attack but instead occurred after we introduced a change that affected our configuration systems. We moved quickly to fix the problem, and both services are back to 100 percent for everyone.”

A technical snafu would certainly explain why both Facebook and Instagram took a nosedive, but doesn’t appear to account for the influx of traffic from overseas and the downtime suffered by other, unrelated social networking sites, which coincided with Facebook and Instagram’s own.

The convenient timing has led some portions of the internet to slip on the tin foil hats and ponder whether Facebook’s PR might be covering something up. After all, the word ‘hack’ has begun to strike fear into the hearts of boardroom executives since Sony’s dirty laundry was publically aired back in November. And despite a DDOS attack being something altogether different, it’s plausible to think that a company the size of Facebook might want to keep things quiet to avoid a public outcry, even if it that isn’t the most ethical course to take.

Of course, it’s also not a stretch to imagine the hackers were simply trying to dine-out on some potentially ‘good’ PR.

Still, at least Facebook and Instagram were back up and working in time for us to stagger to the bathroom with our phones, for a pre-breakfast dump and a browse of the latest stream of poorly-informed political arguments and dimly-lit nightclub selfies.

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