On January 13, 2021 AT&T experienced a massive outage that disrupted the internet and phone services of across South Florida.
A representative of the company said the outage came from equipment failure at one of their facilities.
Users were reporting no service at around 3:30 in the afternoon. It wasn’t until 6:00pm that users were posting about their internet and mobile phone services returning.
Outages were reported in Key West, Coral Gables, Pompano Beach, Parkland, Plantation and Sunny Iles Beach.
“Why does any of this matter?”, you might be asking yourself. If the issues were resolved and services were restored what’s the big deal?
The reason it’s important to bring up is because of how often it can happen. An outage of this size would be a major problem for businesses normally, but now that many companies have moved to a remote operation, an outage like this, even one that lasts an hour can have serious negative effects on a business.
Thousands of employees, working on various projects to be completed on deadline are suddenly frozen in place. Business owners monitoring and running their operation were left in the dark almost literally. Think about what that does to productivity. Consider further how much money is lost or thrown away in those hours of downtime.
What Causes a Network Outage?
In the case of the AT&T outage it was equipment failure. However, it can be caused by electrical storms, mismanagement of devices, failed software, server hardware failure, or even freak accidents like a rodent chewing through a cable.
One of the main reasons for an outages is attributed to router failure from a configuration change. In fact 23 percent of all downtime on a network is caused by router failure , according to research by the University of Michigan.
Cyber Attacks Can Also Cause Outages
Even though Internet service provider failures, like with AT&T, natural disasters, technology error and human error are the main causes for network outage, cyber attacks are becoming more prominent ways of disrupting a network as well.
Cyberattacks represent the fastest growing cause of outages within data centers. There was a growth from 2 percent of outages in 2010 to 22 percent in 2016.
There is a specific type of cyberattack that is most effective in shutting down networks. Some of you might be familiar with this type of attack called Denial of Service attack (DDoS for short). They occur almost every day now. It doesn’t matter how big or small your business is, your services can be slowed or halted entirely through a DDoS attack.
Even more disturbing is the fact that in many cases a DDoS attack is used as a distraction in order to execute other cyber attacks like data theft.
A DDoS attack pretty much overwhelms your computer by bombarding it with data to the point where it gets overloaded and shuts down. This is a gross simplification of what actually happens but the purposes of this article it will due.
The most recent example of a DDoS attack was in 2020 when Amazon Web Services (AWS) was struck by a DDoS attack in February. The fact that an attack like this was capable of disrupting Amazon’s cloud services giant should say a lot about the sophistication of the attack. The attack used a technique called Connectionless Lightweight Directory Access Protocol Reflection. You don’t have to worry about the details because that name alone is a mouthful. However, it is important to note the attack lasted three days and amplified the quantity of data sent across the victim’s IP address by up to 70 times.
How Do We Solve Outages?
Continuous Network Monitoring
Consistent 24/7 network monitoring is your key to tackling downtime disasters. Network monitoring allows you to collect data about your network’s status by going through network devices performance and availability. statistics. One the data is collected you can use it to determine what caused the downtime event. Specific information about the outage will also be made available. What device caused the event, the location , and the time of the outage are all things you can determine through network monitoring. IT professionals usually understand how to go about the process of inferring the cause of downtime by reviewing specific data.
Managed IT services companies offer IT consulting services that organize a continuity plan to prepare a business for such event. Like a fire drill, IT consulting involves working through internal processes to find the quickest and most effective way to respond to and diagnose an outage.
That’s why it isn’t enough to have the right strategy but the right cyber security tools to prepare and safeguard against cyber attacks. If you have one It professional working for your business, they might not have the resources or time to fully commit to proactively assess cyber threats and take measured steps to avoid them.