Experts say it's 'theoretically possible' the Facebook outage was connected to a whistleblower's bombshell claims against the company - but not likely

·3 min read
Facebook whistleblower Frances Haugen testifies to senate committee
Facebook whistleblower Frances Haugen testifies to senate committee Matt McClain-Pool/Getty Images
  • Hours after an interview with a Facebook whistleblower aired, the firm suffered a widespread outage.

  • Experts told Insider the two events likely aren't connected and are merely a "coincidence."

  • But they also said it's "theoretically possible," and hackers could have attacked to "make a point."

  • See more stories on Insider's business page.

Facebook and its carousel of apps suffered a sweeping six-hour outage Monday in what became a high-profile event for the firm.

The night before, a CBS "60 Minutes" interview with former Facebook employee Frances Haugen aired, with the whistleblower detailing how she believes the company routinely prioritized profits over the safety of its users after leaking internal documents.

Experts told Insider it's not likely that the two events are connected, but that doesn't mean it's not impossible.

Purandar Das, president and co-founder of the data security firm Sotero, told Insider that it's possible hackers or an activist group targeted the platform "to make a point," though if that were the case, the attackers would have claimed responsibility for it by now.

"I would tend to lean towards the coincidence angle," Das said. "Keep in mind, Facebook has already been hacked and has lost millions of user records. We will find out in the near term if this was an attack because the attackers will not stop."

Das also said hackers moving forward could "even look to exfiltrate internal documents and communications to publicly embarrass the company."

Ryan Lloyd, a security strategist at the mobile application security firm GuardSquare, told Insider that it's "theoretically possible" that someone could have purposefully caused a disruption, but it's difficult to say for certain.

"This could have very easily been an accident that was the byproduct of some intentional work and the DNS configuration settings in question here were collateral damage of some other initiative," Lloyd said. "But it's hard to know for sure without really being on the inside and seeing what's going on."

On Monday, Facebook and its WhatsApp, Instagram, and Messenger services were inoperable for billions of users as well as scores of Facebook employees who couldn't access the company's internal servers and communications systems.

Instagram CEO Adam Mosseri equated the situation to a "snow day" for employees who were unable to do any work.

Facebook vice president of infrastructure, Santosh Janardhan, said Tuesday that the outage was "an error of our own making" and blamed a routine maintenance job for knocking the company's servers offline. The outage was not due to any malicious activity, he said.

On Tuesday, Haugen testified before Congress regarding the Facebook documents she exposed, claiming that regulatory action is needed against the company.

Haugen said she doesn't know why the services went down. "But I know that for more than five hours, Facebook wasn't used to deepen divides destabilize democracies, and make young girls and women feel bad about their bodies," she said.

"It also means the millions of small businesses, weren't able to reach potential customers, and countless photos of new babies weren't joyously celebrated by family and friends around the world," she said.

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