Facebook Outage: Hack Attack Suspected

Users all over the world reported problems getting on Facebook early evening Pacific time. The group Anonymous has long threatened an attack on Facebook, which recently delivered its Initial Public Offering (IPO) in the United States.

Just two weeks after Facebook enjoyed what is likely to go down as the biggest tech IPO in history, Twitter users all over the world reported a Facebook outage. Or is Facebook down as a result of a hack attack?

The overarching suspicion on Twitter is that hackers are responsible, but that is as yet unconfirmed. Facebook representatives have not returned calls or emails to comment.

According to the site DownRightNow, Facebook experienced a widespread disruption early evening Pacific time, at about 7 p.m. DownRightNow reports that it gets its data based on a triangulation of user reports on Twitter, reports on DownRightNow and “feeds and official announcements.”

At 10 p.m. Pacific, three hours after the outage hit, Facebook still had made no mention of it on its official blog.

Why the suspicion that hackers are involved? Two days ago, on February 17, the alleged hacker group Anonymous and the related Antisec attacked the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and that of its PR contractor, saying it was doing so because the FTC lets “Google combine user data without user consent.” The person who wrote the rant did not explain why Antisec targeted FTC but not Google.

The Antisec rant from February 17, filled with swearing and threats, said: “Just think, as you’re reading this statement, we are already sailing into new waters … we are (expletive deleted) hitting on hundreds of rooted servers getting ready to drop all your mySQL dumps, child (pornography) and mail spools.” That writer continued with “and oh wait, what’s that? Your passwords? Addresses? Your precious bank accounts? Even your online online dating details” were being prepared for release “for our next raid.”

The link to that rant is here — parental and employer discretion is advised due to adult language. The main beef of the rant, if you want to skip the expletives there, is that the FTC and other governments and companies are “enemies of free speech, privacy and Internet freedom. We will systematically knock all evil corporations and government off of our Internet,” the statement released in the name of Antisec on Friday said.

Whether Antisec or Anonymous is responsible for what is going on with Facebook isn’t clear. Execs are mum, but Facebook users on Twitter complained of being locked out of their accounts — and needing friends to verify them to get back in. Here’s a sampling of what was on this reporter’s feed.

This wouldn’t be the first time hackers targeted Facebook. In mid November, Facebook fell victim to a bedeviling and widespread attack, where pornographic images displayed randomly across user accounts. It was a major deal —  coming, as it did, on the heels of a Federal Trade Commission (FTC) investigation into Facebook’s privacy policies. The FTC has since closed the investigation, reps said earlier this year.

At the time — it was November 14, 2011 — Facebook rep Andrew Noyes said in a statement:

“Protecting the people who use Facebook from spam and malicious content is a top priority for us, and we are always working to improve our systems to isolate and remove material that violates our terms … our efforts have drastically (sic) limited the damage caused by this attack, and we are now in the process of investigating to identify those responsible.”

Facebook reps have yet to return to calls on whether there was an attack today and who or what was responsible. In the United States, it is Sunday evening on the long three-day President’s Day holiday weekend.

The alleged and loosely-knit group known as Anonymous — or Antisec, which affiliates with Anonymous and took responsibility for the FTC attacks and attacks on the Silicon Valley PR firm that works with it, makes no mention of the attack on Facebook on its Twitter feed.

This writer’s Facebook account is still up, though at least four staffers at aNewDomain in various U.S. locations reported they could not get into their accounts. Many wondered whether the outage had anything to do with recent news, reported by the BBC in English and in German b The Berner Zeitung Digital, that UK officials had sentenced a 26-year-old British student, Glenn Mangham, to eight months in prison for (English: “hacking into Facebook source code”)from his bedroom. It was an act the German digital magazine said cost the social network about $200,000, or 126,400 Euros.

At 10:10 PT Sunday, this writer’s Facebook account was still fine. Our senior editor Josh Windisch said he was locked out of his, however, which he noted in GroovyPost.com as aNewDomain.net broke this story. Our senior photojournalist Julie Blaustein says she could not get into her account until other Facebook friends “verified” her identity. Windisch, Blaustein and this reporter all live and work in the San Francisco Bay area. A correspondent in Texas reported the same issue as Blaustein.

Here is this reporter’s Facebook screen. Still up.

Continuing coverage …

About the author

Gina Smith

Gina Smith is a New York Times bestselling author and an award-winning journalist. A former correspondent for ABC News, Gina is the co-founder and editorial director of aNewDomain Media. Email Gina at gina@anewdomain.net and find her on Twitter @ginasmith888

2 Comments

  • So this may explain why a Facebook picture — a pic that exists only on Facebook — was mailed to everyone connected to me on Facebook as an invite to a dating site! Yikes.

    Don’t know why anyone would target me, though. Journalists are all about the first amendment right of free speech — and the expectation of privacy.
    gs

  • Seems like I remember back in Dec/Jan that Anonymous posted a vid about trying to start a strike against facebook. I’m a young dude with an old man’s mind, so I could be wrong.

    -RAP, II