Mark Zuckerberg’s Facebook, Instagram and other social media platforms crashed last night for the second consecutive month. Several banks, phone networks, and other tech giants also suffered major outages in recent months.

Even Britain’s biggest supermarket Tesco was brought to its knees by a hack of its website and app last month, leaving thousands of customers unable to order groceries for 48 hours and costing the retailer an estimated £40m in lost revenue.  

What’s the real reason behind these website outages or crashes? Is this just a coincidence or a problem with the back-end systems? Or is something more sinister happening?

MailOnline spoke to a variety of internet security and cyber experts to determine the root causes of the outages. We started with Meta, the parent company behind Facebook, Instagram, and WhatsApp. 

Technical difficulties: Facebook and Instagram crashed for the second time in a month last night, while a string of banks and other companies have also experienced outages recently

Technical problems: Facebook and Instagram crashed last night for the second consecutive month, while banks and other businesses also suffered outages in recent weeks

Matthew Hodgson is co-founder and CEO at Element, and technical co-founder at Matrix. He said that Meta’s centralised backend system was a major problem.

This means that Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp, and Messenger can all be affected by a single failure, instead of just one. 

‘The spate of recent outages is an inevitable side-effect of massive centralisation, where companies like Facebook have ended up on the critical path of providing infrastructure for billions of people,’ Mr Hodgson told MailOnline.

“Consumers end-up unwittingly being obliged to put all of their eggs in one basket and when inevitably a failure mode for that company or its infrastructure occurs (be it accidental, malicious), the end result can be catastrophic.”

Professor Bill Buchanan, an Internet scientist, also believes that the internet is too centralised. 

He calls for multiple nodes to ensure that a service doesn’t fail on its own.

Hodgson also agreed.

‘The solution is to decentralise apps like Facebook and WhatsApp, just as the web and email and internet itself has no central points of control or failure — so there’s simply no single company or infrastructure which can have an outage which impacts the whole system,’ he said. 

Jake Moore, a spokesman for internet security and antivirus company ESET, told MailOnline: ‘Centralising their data has been one of the biggest issues for Meta combining all three giants — Facebook, WhatsApp and Instagram. 

“This brings problems that are often not discovered until the crunch time, which can be too late. 

“These outages are often the result and companies using these platforms to conduct business must have additional tools in place should it rely on these services, such as another messaging platform. 

“We are likely to experience more outages in coming months because more people use these services.”

Many experts believe that an outage is caused by a cyber-attack.

But they added that more often than not it’s down to human error, as was the case last month when Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp and Messenger went down for seven hours.

It was ultimately attributed at the bottom to a faulty upgrade that disconnected Meta’s servers and brought down all its platforms.

A single unnamed IT customer was also responsible for a massive internet blackout that brought down hundreds of websites around the globe in June. 

Millions of people were unable to access major sites like Amazon, Spotify, PayPal, and the UK government.

The outage was caused by a software bug triggered when a customer for Fastly — the US cloud-computing company responsible for the problems — changed their settings, the firm said. 

Mark Zuckerberg is the CEO of Meta, which owns Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp

Meta, which is responsible for Facebook, Instagram, and WhatsApp, is headed by Mark Zuckerberg.


Human error

Experts say that while hackers are often cited as the cause of any web disruption, hacking is more common than experts believe. However, hackers can also be responsible for more mundane reasons like human error.

IT workers in companies, tech giants, or even supermarkets make mistakes. One cyber security expert blames them for being ‘under pressure’ and taking shortcuts.

Meta’s October 4 outage was ultimately attributed to user error. A faulty update had disconnected its servers from internet.


There have been increases in the sophistication of hacking, experts say, with numerous Distributed Denial-of-Service (DDoS) attacks seen recently, including on Microsoft, Google and other massive companies.

DDoS attacks are performed by flooding the victim’s system in an attempt overload it with ‘internet trafic’ and force it offline.

Meanwhile, ransomware — a form of cyberattack which locks files and data on a user’s computer and demands payment in order for them to be released back to the owner — is also on the rise.

It was described by Britain’s cybersecurity chief as ‘the most immediate threat’ among all cyber threats facing the country. Businesses need to do more to ensure their safety.

Too much traffic

MailOnline was told by a cyber security expert that Covid had caused an unexpected surge of traffic to tech giants and other businesses, putting strains on their infrastructure.

He claimed that the outages were caused by the’sheer number of online users’ and’strange traffic’. 

Centralised systems

Meta is just one example of many companies who have centralised their back-end systems.

Meta’s case is that it can affect Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp as well, as was the case last month.

One internet scientist agreed that centralised systems are problematic, while another expert stated that Meta’s outage demonstrated the advantages of a decentralised system that is more reliable and doesn’t place all the eggs in the same basket. 

Ageing web infrastructure

Experts say that the World Wide Web was created in 1989 and is now an ‘ageing infrastructure.

Systems are under increasing pressure due to the rise in traffic and volume of internet users.

One expert said that businesses should test their infrastructure and have multiple failsafes.

Gav Winter, CEO at and cybersecurity firm said that large-scale outages have increased over the past 12 month. He also stated that human error was often a major culprit. 

He stated that mistakes were made because employees are under pressure from their companies and choose to take unwise shortcuts. 

MailOnline was also told by experts that outdated systems that keep the internet connected are making IT problems worse. 

The World Wide Web was created in 1989 and is now an ‘aging infrastructure’ that is under increasing pressure from users.

Professor Buchanan previously stated to the BBC that the internet is not the large-scale distributed network DARPA (the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency), tried to create. It can withstand a nuclear strike on any part of it.

“The protocols it uses are essentially the ones that were created when we connected to mainframe computers via dumb terminals. A single flaw in its core infrastructure can bring it all to the ground. 

MailOnline has spoken to a number of cyber security experts to find out why there have been so many web outages, starting with the problems experienced by Meta

MailOnline spoke with a number cyber security experts in order to understand why there have been so many outages. The first was the Meta issues.


Facebook and Instagram crashed yesterday for the second time in one month, affecting thousands around the world during the three hour outage.

Prior to that, all Facebook apps were shut down for nearly seven hours on October 4th during a massive global crash.

September also saw a technical issue with Instagram that caused an outage that lasted 16 hours.

The last time Facebook, Instagram, and WhatsApp were all down simultaneously, other than October was June. 

More than a thousand people in countries including the United States, Morocco, Mexico, Bolivia and Brazil reported outages.

There were also two Facebook platform outages during March. Instagram was down March 30, and all three platforms down March 19. 

Moore stated that tech giants and other businesses were also affected by the unexpected surge in traffic caused by the Covid pandemic. This strains their infrastructure.

He added that these outages are increasing in number due to the sheer volume of online users and traffic.

“The pandemic is forcing more people online in rapid succession than the slow increase predicted over time. 

“Sheer large numbers of people are funnelling through passages made for times past cause blackouts, much like when many people visit a website at the same time to purchase tickets that are just on sale. 

Moore stated that businesses should test their infrastructure, and have multiple failsafes. But as often happens with the case it is simply impossible to simulate its size and magnitude in a safe environment.

According to Luke Deryckx, chief technical officer at Down Detector, a website that monitors websites for disruption, widespread outages are becoming more frequent and more serious. 

MailOnline spoke to experts who confirmed that major outages have been on the increase and are only going to get worse.

They believe that the answer lies in companies shifting to more decentralised systems, updating old infrastructure, and creating servers that can host more users.

There will be more outages until then, with Meta and its large user base bearing the brunt. 


Cybersecurity firm Dashlane examined 22 websites and ranked them according to their security and login protocols. 

One point was awarded to the presence of SMS/email authentication and a token for software authentication. Three points were awarded for using hardware tokens. 

Cybersecurity firms considered anything less than perfect marks and the presence or all three security measures to constitute a failure.    

Rankings of the UK for 2018

5/5 Points- PASS

  • Facebook
  • Google
  • Twitter
  • Battle.

FAIL 2/5 Points

  • Amazon
  • Apple
  • Evernote
  • Instagram
  • Patreon
  • Slack 

1/5 Point – FAIL

  • Airbnb
  • eBay
  • Indeed
  • LinkedIn 
  • Yahoo!

FAIL – 0/5 Points