What Caused the Recent Amazon Web Services Outage?

An outage at Amazon Web Services’ (AWS) biggest data center, the AWS-us-east-1 cloud region, created a chaotic morning for countless smart devices, services and companies on Tuesday, December 7th across the globe.

The outage impacted several of Amazon services including the AWS Management Console, Support Center, Elastic Compute Cloud, Amazon Connect and Amazon Dynamo DB. With millions of private, public and federal organizations connect to the AWS cloud computing services, users across the globe felt the impact of the outage.

Popular websites and apps such as Spotify, Netflix and Disney+, as well as smart home devices including Ring, smart robots and Alexa, all reported interruptions. Also affected were high-traffic websites, including My Social Security (SSA), Delta Airlines and Billboard and banks. The outage really hit home for Amazon when their automated warehouse bots and the app Amazon delivery drivers rely on for logistic management came to a stop at one of the busiest times of year.

Amazon started to provide updates on the outages mid-morning on the AWS Service Health Dashboard, with the final two messages below stating the issues had been resolved.

[3:03 PM PST] Many services have already recovered, however we are working towards full recovery across services. Services like SSO, Connect, API Gateway, ECS/Fargate, and EventBridge are still experiencing impact. Engineers are actively working on resolving impact to these services.

[4:35 PM PST] With the network device issues resolved, we are now working towards recovery of any impaired services. We will provide additional updates for impaired services within the appropriate entry in the Service Health Dashboard.

You can view the full transcript and updates at https://status.aws.amazon.com/.

What caused the AWS outage?

Whenever an outage occurs, the question on everybody’s mind is “what caused this?”

Amazon has stated that a “network device issue” caused the outage, but a recent Business Insider report claims the true cause is still under investigation internally. According to the report, internal communications indicate that network devices may have failed due to a surge of traffic from an unknown source and that their firewalls were being “overwhelmed by an as of yet unknown source" or Amazon’s digital advertising auction. While this version of events may sound a bit more colorful than a simple technical issue does, it is only speculation at this point.

Despite the article, Amazon has not commented again since simply stating that the outage had been resolved and the underlying issues mitigated. Our team will be keep an eye on any updates that come through regarding the cause of the outage.

Whether this was a simple tech issue or something more, this is a good reminder of how connected, and more notably, reliant, our world is and will continue to be on cloud services.

About Schneider Downs Cybersecurity

The Schneider Downs cybersecurity practice consists of experts offering a comprehensive set of information technology security services, including penetration testing, intrusion prevention/detection review, ransomware security, vulnerability assessments and a robust digital forensics and incident response team. For more information, visit www.schneiderdowns.com/cybersecurity or contact the team at [email protected].

In addition, our Digital Forensics and Incident Response teams are available 24x7x365 at 1-800-993-8937 if you suspect or are experiencing a network incident of any kind.

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