Top 9 Website Outages That Made Headlines in Q4 2016

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This quarter’s website outages spanned from financial services to government and even to Internet infrastructure itself. Check out the top 9 downtime stories from Q4 2016.

With Q4 comes an annual period of high pressure for all kinds of companies as the holiday season gets underway. From shoppers affected by the Bank of America disruption to travelers grounded by Sabre’s downtime, this quarter’s downtime stories caused quite a bit of frustration for users.

Add to this holiday pressure a controversial election that led to downtime for Canada’s Immigration Services as well as a massive Internet infrastructure attack and you end up with an interesting slate of downtime stories for Q4 2016.

In all of the following cases, a more aggressive disaster recovery plan could have minimized downtime and mitigated the negative financial and public relations consequences of the outages.

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Read on to see the top 9 downtime stories from Q4 2016.

1. Australian Census Outage Could Have Been Stopped by Turning Router Off Then On
When: August 9 (details revealed October 21)
Duration: 2 days
What Happened: Although the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) experienced downtime with its online census system in August, it took nearly two months for details to be revealed about the incident. Participation in the census is mandatory and a late entry is grounds for a fine, leaving the thousands of people affected by the outage to express their outrage on social media—#CensusFail. Now two months later, IBM has revealed that simply turning a certain router off and restarting it could have mitigated the effects of this DDoS attack.

2. Sabre Downtime Grounds Domestic Southwest and JetBlue Flights
When: October 17
Duration: 4 hours
What Happened: Airline booking systems had a rough 2016. With multiple instances of downtime for internal systems, the outage resulting from a Sabre pricing system disruption was a serious issue for recurring customers. Airport operations and international flights remained unaffected, but all domestic flights were inaccessible for over 4 hours. As a result, many customers missed out on prime pricing for the specific flights they needed.

3. King’s College London Sees University-Wide IT Systems Outages
When: October 17
Duration: 11 days
What Happened: King’s College London experienced a failure in the Strand data center, which resulted in outages across nearly every IT system, including priority fixes such as timetabling, payroll, shared drives, and library systems. While Internet access remained intact, the IT Services team spent more than a week upgrading individual silos throughout all campuses, working with HPE in the process. While users seemed patient with the IT Services team, there was still widespread concern.

4. The Internet of Things Made Way for Massive Outages
When: October 21
Duration: Several hours (depending on the service)
What Happened: Attackers targeted an IoT botnet belonging to Domain Name System (DNS) which resulted in U.S.-wide outages for many of the largest websites in the world. The affected companies included Twitter, Pinterest, Reddit, Spotify, PayPal, and many more (possibly thousands). Outages are nothing new, but this may have been the first attack of its kind and social media erupted (when services came back on, of course).

5. People Fleeing the Country Post Election? Canada’s Immigration Website Suffered the Consequences
When: November 8
Duration: 10 hours
What Happened: The 2016 presidential election was historic in many ways for the United States. But Canada felt some of the consequences of election night, too. Amidst uncertainty over the election, Canada saw spiked traffic that resulted in 500 Internal Server Errors for visitors. While the numbers of affected users is unclear, it’s interesting to see how political climates now have the power to affect websites you might not have expected. And unsurprisingly, people on social media had some fun with this story.

6. Tinder Downtime Leaves Users Dateless for a Night
When: November 15
Duration: 5 hours
What Happened: Tinder never commented on what caused this outage, but another technical difficulty resulted in millions of affected users who couldn’t send messages, had their matches deleted, and/or couldn’t log into the service. Users across the UK, Europe, and the United States are familiar with these problems as Tinder experienced a similar outage in September as well.

7. Bank of America Outage Puts a Damper on Early Holiday Shopping

When: November 22
Duration: 8 hours
What Happened: Banking in brick-and-mortar branches might be on the decline, but holiday shoppers still arrived at Bank of America on November 22 looking to withdraw cash for Black Friday. However, teller systems nationwide experienced outages that inconvenienced millions of customers. ATMs and other services avoided issues, but there were certainly many frustrated would-be shoppers throughout the day.

8. PlayStation Network Hit With Another Bout of Downtime

When: November 22
Duration: 2 hours
What Happened: Unfortunately, the PlayStation Network is frequently featured in downtime stories across the Internet as users take to social media to voice their frustration. After experiencing significant downtime in October, another instance occurred in late November despite the increased price point for PlayStation Plus in September. PlayStation engineers seem to be relatively quick to respond, but there are clearly technical difficulties to overcome.

9. Hacker Group Launches “Light-Hearted” DDoS Attack Against Tumblr
When: December 21
Duration: 3 hours
What Happened: A hacker group called R.I.U. Star Patrol tweeted Mashable to claim responsibility for DDoS attacks that brought Tumblr down. Tumblr classified the issues as latency that affected user dashboards, but Star Patrol assured everyone the whole ordeal was for fun. Tumblr users, however, were not having fun amidst a 3-hour disruption.

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