The Internet Broke Today: Techies Say Amazon Did It

If you’re having a hard time collaborating with coworkers or dealing with certain websites today, relax. The Internet is broken, and it’s not your fault.

Amazon Web Services is causing “widespread issues” with numerous websites, devices and apps that depend on AWS to function. According to the Amazon service health dashboard, the Internet issues, which the company describes as “increased error rates,” are originating from a location near Ashburn in northern Virginia. Just before noon PST, Amazon posted the following on their service dashboard.

“We have confirmed increased error rates for API Gateway requests in the US-EAST-1 Region when communicating with other AWS services. Deploying new APIs or modifications to existing APIs are also affected.”

Around 150,000 websites and more than 120,000 domains rely on Amazon Simple Storage Service, or Amazon S3. S3 also enables smart home technology such as thermostat control. The Amazon S3 service is touted to have a simple interface that can store and retrieve an unlimited amount of data from anywhere on the Internet.

Until it doesn’t.

Companies that count on Amazon S3 for day-to-day business include Quora, ESPN, AirBnB, Slack, AOL, and Amazon itself. The service provides image and content hosting as well as whole-site hosting and application backends. The number of websites that are powered by Amazon S3 amount to only around one percent of the top one million sites worldwide, but the Amazon Internet breakdown is affecting web users in a very big way, explains TechCrunch.

The Amazon health dashboard is not fully functioning but from what this writer can gather, glitches galore are affecting Amazon CloudSearch, Amazon CloudWatch, Amazon Cognito, Amazon EC2 Container Registry, and other crucial operational services. Cache, analytics, data pipelines and certificate managers are also being adversely affected by today’s Internet issues. If you use the cloud for anything, you undoubtedly notice when Amazon breaks the Internet.

Why is one server in Virginia so crucial to the Internet?

Eleven miles west of Washington, D.C. there sits an unincorporated portion of Fairfax County known as Tysons Corner. Named for a post-Civil War postmaster, the region that once boasted dairy farms is now home to more than its share of corporate headquarters, defense contractors, and high-tech companies. During the big Internet boom of the mid-1990s, network companies America Online, UUNET, and MCI were all headquartered in Tysons Corner. Thanks to the concentration of early Internet outfits and financial support from the National Science Foundation, the nascent Internet exchange known as MAE-East was developed. Today, the region is considered the backbone of the Internet, facilitating more than 70 percent of all global traffic. When Virginia servers go down, the world wide web feels it.

Did the CIA break the Internet?

Not directly, but the government agency does seem to be closely connected with Amazon Web Services. According to Federal Computer Week magazine, the Central Intelligence Agency inked a $600 million contract with Amazon five years ago. In March 2013, the CIO of the CIA revealed to the Northern Virginia Technology Council Board of Directors that the intelligence agency was interested in “leveraging the innovation style” of the commercial sector while seeking cost-effective IT solutions. The Office of the Director of National Intelligence website indicates that the government’s Information Technology Enterprise Strategy “officially opened for business” in August 2013. The CIA itself is not so forthcoming, saying only the following.

“As a general rule, the CIA does not publicly disclose details of our contracts, the identities of our contractors, the contract values, or the scope of work.”

As this article goes to press, Amazon’s service dashboard indicates that some, but not all of the major internet breaks have been resolved. Whatever caused the internet break on the last day of February 2017 may never be fully understood by users. Perhaps we’re better off for not knowing.

[Featured Image by SIphotography/Thinkstock /Getty Images]

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