Facebook and Instagram went offline worldwide today at about 06:00 GMT for nearly an hour. The shutdowns were believed initially to have been caused by DDoS (Distributed Denial-of-Service) hacker attacks, which work by overwhelming servers with demand for a website, causing the system to crash.
More to come soon. Side note: We’re still organizing the @MAS email dump, stay tuned for that.
— Lizard Squad (@LizardMafia) January 27, 2015
But Facebook has denied Lizard Squad’s claim of responsibility for shutdown of its website. Officials said the shutdown was due to a newly introduced change that affected the configuration of their systems.
Users of Facebook and Instagram were unable to log in to their accounts earlier today. The two social media websites, with a total of over 1.5 billion users worldwide, greeted users with blank pages in the United States, Europe and Asia for about 60 minutes beginning from about 06:00 GMT.
The social media blackout also affected the dating mobile app Tinder, AOL Instant Messenger, Hipchat and MySpace.
Facebook was at first silent about what caused the outage, only acknowledging in an official statement that users were having trouble accessing the site and that engineers were working “to get things back to normal as quickly as possible.”
An Instagram spokesman posted a similar message to Twitter.
“We’re aware of an outage affecting Instagram and are working on a fix. Thank you for your patience.”
But the initial silence about what caused the outage led to claims on Twitter that it was due to the massive snowstorm rolling in over the East Coast.
The blackout caused the hashtag #facebookdown and #socialmeltdown2015 to begin trending on Twitter, beating the hashtag #Snowmageddon2015, focused on the ongoing blizzard in the northeast, to the top of Twitter’s trending topics list.
Twitter was not affected by the outage.
There was mild panic online when millions of Facebook and Instagram users who tried to log into their accounts were unable to do so. But some users attempted to joke about the situation.
“Now that Facebook is down, I might actually have to ask people how they’re feeling in real life. ‘What’s on your mind?'”
“If Facebook & Instagram are down how am I supposed to know what my aunt had for dinner or if any of my friends held a Starbucks cup today???”
Following Facebook’s denial that Lizard Squad was responsible for its website shutting down temporarily, it remains uncertain what caused other sites, such as the dating mobile app Tinder, AOL Instant Messenger, Hipchat and MySpace, to shut down.
Lizard Squad is a network of hackers, one of several modeled after the hacker collective Anonymous. The group, which describes itself as the “next generation Grinch,” after a fictional character who hates Christmas, admits that its goal is to cause confusion online all “for a laugh.”
A spokesman for the group, who identified as “Ryan Cleary,” told The Washington Post that the group’s “biggest goal is to have fun.”
“… one of our biggest goals is to have fun, of course. But we’re also exposing massive security issues with these companies people are trusting their personal information with. The customers of these companies should be rather worried.”
Lizard Squad first gained notoriety after its DDoS take down of Sony PlayStation Network and Microsoft’s Xbox Live network on Christmas Day.
Yesterday, it took down the website of Malaysia Airlines, posting the image of a pipe-smoking lizard wearing a tuxedo, a top hat and a monocle, with the accompanying message “404 Plane Not Found,” in reference to Flight MH370 that went missing last year with 239 passengers.
After claiming responsibility for the attack on the Malaysia Airlines website, the group tweeted, saying, “More to come soon. Side note: We’re still organizing the @MAS email dump, stay tuned for that.”
The group also caused panic in August when it tweeted to Sony, suggesting that there were explosives on a plane carrying the president of the company John Smedley.
Although, the group claims affiliation with the Islamic State, having described itself as the cyber arm of the “Islamic Caliphate,” the true extent of its links to the Islamic State has not been independently verified.