The 7 Outages That Wreaked Havoc in Q2 2017

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From WannaCry to Petya, ransomware attacks have been spreading like bad weeds this past spring. Whether it’s your frappucinos, yoga pants, travel plans, or work communications, these 7 outages affected hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of customers around the globe.

After the two biggest ransomware attacks in history dominated global headlines this past quarter, it’s no wonder that companies and citizens alike are scrambling to keep up with the latest cyber threats. Especially when these hack attacks can literally cost lives, and not merely computers, as the UK discovered when their hospitals were shut down.

The good news is there are ways to fight back against ransomware. Check out this post for critical tips on how ransomware can be rendered harmless with the right disaster recovery solutions. 

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In addition to ransomware, we also saw major brands struggling with website outages that resulted from human error, electrical outages, and software updates. A big shout out to Starbucks for their transparency and for offering free drinks to their customers during the outage.

Check out our list below of the 7 biggest outages of Q2. 

1. WhatsApp back online after global outage of ‘a few hours’
When: May 3, 2017
Duration: Several hours
What Happened: Over 1.2 billion people around the world use WhatsApp, which is why it’s so devastating when the service goes down. On May 3, users in India, Brazil, Canada, and the US were unable to send and receive messages. The professional class in Brazil rely heavily on WhatsApp for work, and as in previous WhatsApp outages, many switched to rival system Telegram in the heat of the moment. And it’s not the first time: Telegram has reportedly picked up millions of customers in Brazil after two previous WhatsApp outages. While a WhatsApp spokesperson apologized for the downtime and acknowledged that it was caused by an internal issue rather than an “external source,” they did not go further in giving the reason for the outage.

Related: How to Protect Your Organization From Ransomware Attacks

2. WannaCry ransomware: Everything you need to know
When: May 12, 2017
Duration: 4 days
What Happened: More than 230,000 computers in over 150 countries were victims of ransomware in one of the largest, most unprecedented cyberattacks in history. A hacking group called the Shadow Brokers took advantage of an NSA spy tool to exploit a vulnerability in Microsoft PCs. Microsoft had created a free patch a month earlier, but many organizations did not implement the fix. As a result, hospitals, banks, schools, and businesses were forced to their knees, from Russia to China to the US. The UK’s National Health Service was particularly hard hit, as patients and ambulances were turned away and hospitals operated on an emergency-only basis. In the effort to regain their data, victims worldwide paid a total of 327 payments worth $130,634.7 to the hackers. Economic losses from the attack are estimated to reach up to $4 billion, and that’s not to mention the emotional damage.

3. Starbucks Registers Down in Widespread Outage 
When: May 16, 2017
Duration: half a day
What Happened: An overnight “technology update” to their POS (point of sales) systems resulted in many Starbucks branches across the US and Canada being forced to function as cash-only businesses. A Starbucks spokesperson was quick to emphasize that the outage was due to a software update error, and not hacking. Several locations chose to give out free coffee in order to appease their customers. The king of coffee received warm applause across social media for both their generosity and transparency in the matter.

Related: 10 Essential Steps to Developing an IT Disaster Recovery Plan That Works

4. Lululemon CEO blames IBM for site outage, says it’s looking at other options 
When: May 22, 2017
Duration: 20 hours
What Happened: The trendy yogawear company was dealt a painful blow to their online sales efforts when their North American website crashed after a power failure at a server farm. Lululemon’s CEO Laurent Potdevin went so far as to blame IBM for the outage, as their website relies on IBM’s managed hosting service. While the popular brand tried to save face with cutesy error messages like, “Our website is in temporary Savasana” and “We’ll be back in the flow shortly,” the outage could cost the company hundreds of thousands of dollars in lost sales.

5. BA flights grounded: Apologetic CEO Alex Cruz denies catastrophic computer failure was caused by job cuts
When: May 27, 2017
Duration: 3 days
What Happened: A mistake by one engineer caused 1,000 British Airways flights to be delayed or cancelled, affecting upwards of 75,000 passengers. The outage occurred when an engineer disconnected a power supply at a data center near London’s Heathrow airport, causing a surge that resulted in major damage when it was reconnected. Planes trying to land were unable to park, due to jets clogging the gates, and the ripple effect caused flight cancellations across Europe and the US. The outage is expected to cost the airline over £100M. British Airways’ CEO Alex Cruz is being blamed for the IT failure, as he recently shut down the airline’s computer department and outsourced the work to India. IT experts argue that the airline’s multiple contractors and systems across multiple teams require very well-oiled processes, or are a recipe for disaster and ultimately, this could have been avoided.

6. After three days, Skype’s outage is resolved
When: June 19, 2017
Duration: 3 days
What Happened: A hacking group called CyberTeam claimed responsibility for a Skype outage that lasted three days. Whether the hackers were the true cause is still a mystery, as Microsoft has chosen to stay silent on the verdict. During the outage, users across Europe, Japan, Singapore, India, Pakistan, and South Africa were unable to log in, make calls, and send and receive messages. While Skype’s Heartbeat page acknowledged the outage, their silence on the cause has led many to speculate that the hackers might be speaking the truth. Regardless, thousands of people rely on Skype for work, and they argue that they (especially the Premium users) deserve to know whether Skype screwed up or if it was attacked.

7. Petya Or NotPetya: Why The Latest Ransomware Is Deadlier Than WannaCry
When: June 27, 2017
Duration: Several days
What Happened: Only a few weeks after WannaCry wreaked havoc on computers around the globe, Petya (also known as “NotPetya”) sent thousands in Europe and the US offline. The attack started in Ukraine, shutting down the Ukrainian government, bank, postal service, transportation services and power companies. Petya shared many similarities with WannaCry, such as its spread through Microsoft Windows and demand for a $300 Bitcoin ransom. Unlike WannaCry, however, Petya exploited multiple vulnerabilities as opposed to one, had no “kill switch,” and gave victims no recourse to their data — since the contact email for doing so was shut down. Another interesting difference about Petya is that many cybersecurity experts believe Petya was designed to cause destruction, rather than earn money. Others say it was created specifically to destabilize Ukraine.

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