Google outage pushed traffic through Russia, China and Nigeria

Ruben Fields
November 16, 2018

Engadget reports that Google services went down for an hour worldwide recently after the company's IP addresses were re-routed from their usual paths to ones running through Nigeria, China, and Russian Federation.

Service interruptions lasted for almost one and a half hours and ended about 5:30 p.m. EST., network service companies said.

Google, for its part, has not confirmed the details of the issue, but has confirmed what it describes as 'Google Cloud Networking Incident #18018' which saw 'Google Cloud IP addresses being erroneously advertised by internet service providers other than Google' for a period of around an hour. It can arise either from misconfiguration - human error, essentially- or from a malicious action.

This eventually caused vast bucketfuls of internet traffic bound for Google in the United States and posibly elsewhere to pour into a bottomless pit in China Telcom's network, effectively knocking the ad giant offline in the eyes of many netizens.

Alex Henthorn-Iwane, an executive at the network-intelligence company ThousandEyes, says the hijacking was the worst one affecting Google that his company has seen.

He said he suspected nation-state involvement because the traffic was effectively landing at state-run China Telecom.

It's also worth noting that China Telecom has been accused of BGP hijacks in the past, notably in an academic paper published by the US Naval War College and Tel Aviv University.

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Google said it had no reason to believe the traffic hijacking was malicious.

In the past, border gateway protocol filter glitches have caused multiple outages, showing that traffic from global technology companies such as Google is vulnerable to disruptions caused by problems at other firms, including internet firms around the globe that help direct internet traffic. It did not explain why. One effect: little can be done if a nation-state or someone with access to a major internet provider decides to reroute traffic.

In two recent cases, such rerouting has affected financial sites.

Google network traffic was rerouted through ISPs in China, Russia, and Nigeria, the report notes. In April 2017, one affected MasterCard and Visa among other sites.

The Department of Homeland Security did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

BGPmon says the Nigerian ISP incorrectly announced it was hosting 212 Google network prefixes in five different waves, for a total of 74 minutes. Neither was ready to more definitively pinpoint the cause.

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