When Google sneezes


This article was re-written and updated on 25 and 28 February to reflect developments that occurred after initial publication.

On Friday, 24 February 2017, internet users around the world experienced problems with their Google and Facebook accounts. Although Echobox itself was unaffected, some our clients experienced temporary issues as a result of the outages.

As everything from Facebook pages and personal Gmail accounts to enterprise-level Google Analytics prompted users to log back into their accounts, and in some cases prevented them from doing so, people took to the internet to voice their fears, outrage and frustration.

Even some time after the incidents, there is little information on what the underlying causes were. Here is what’s known so far.

  1. Your account security was not compromised.
  2. This was a problem that affected many different Google and Facebook products.
  3. Google has not yet provided a detailed explanation, and this appeared to be an unprecedented event — so there is a lot of unfounded speculation in blogs and on social media.
  4. Shortly before the incidents, Google announced that its engineers had managed to break a widely used security protocol, SHA-1. Google also changed two-factor authentication on 23 February. And there was a major security breach at Cloudflare the same week. There is no indication that any of these events caused or are related to the account log-in problems.

10pm London/5pm New York/1pm Silicon Valley

Reddit users start complaining that they have trouble signing into their Google accounts.

https://www.reddit.com/r/google/comments/5vted1/disconnected_from_chrome_and_drive/

2am London/9pm New York/6pm Silicon Valley

A Google employee, Crystal Cee, publically admits that there is a problem, reassures users that their account security is not threatened and acknowledges that there may be problems with two-factor authentication.

https://productforums.google.com/forum/?nomobile=true#!category-topic/gmail/Kfsx8YjqAS4

5am London/midnight New York/9pm Silicon Valley

Google’s Twitter account officially announces that many users had issues signing in, and again re-assures users on their account security.

https://twitter.com/Google/status/834993667911737345

7.30pm London/2.30pm New York/11.30am Silicon Valley

Facebook begins to have issues similar to those experienced earlier by Google. This, too, is an issue affecting users worldwide. As with the Google incident, there is no reliable information on what is causing the issue. This website aggregates data on current reports of outages.

https://ww.downdetector.com/problems/facebook

Saturday 2pm London/9am New York/6am Silicon Valley

A Facebook spokesperson has clarified that “an error in one of our systems designed to help prevent suspicious account access sent a small set of people to our account recovery flow unnecessarily […] We have fixed the issue and are in the process of clearing the affected accounts from this recovery flow.” Facebook denied that the incident was related to Cloudflare; it did not state how many accounts were affected. According to Facebook, the cause of the login problem was an internal technical error.


Echobox clients can rest assured that Echobox itself was unaffected by whatever caused the problems at Google. Clients using Facebook and/or Google Analytics may have had issues logging into their accounts and/or received an error message. Google and Facebook have since resolved the problems on their side, so there should be no further login problems. As always, our support team is available to help you deal with any issues you may be experiencing.

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