UK government homepage knocked offline by Fastly glitch

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The homepage of the U.K. government was among websites affected early Tuesday by an outage at content delivery network Fastly.

Gov.uk was unavailable to some users for more than an hour, along with those of major news organizations including the New York Times, Bloomberg, and the Financial Times.

Content delivery networks are a key part of the global internet infrastructure and provide servers that improve the performance and availability of web services to users in different locations. Media content is often cached at a CDN server so that it doesn’t have to be fetched on the original server every time a user loads a web page.

Fastly’s services had fully recovered as of 7am eastern time on June 6. In a blog post, Fastly Senior Vice President of engineering and infrastructure Nick Rockwell said the global outage had been caused by an undiscovered software bug that surfaced when it was triggered by a valid customer configuration change.

“This outage was broad and severe, and we’re truly sorry for the impact to our customers and everyone who relies on them,” said Rockwell.

Commenting on the outage, Matt McDermott, a senior officer at technology policy consultancy Access Partnership, said the incident served as a reminder that government agencies should have a rapid response plan in place for dealing with such outages.

“Organizations and government bodies need to look at implementing the steps that look to assess, stabilize, improve and monitor to ensure this issue do not pose further problems in the future,” he said. “Assessment is needed to determine the server’s bottleneck then stabilizing the issue with implementation of quick fixes will mitigate impact to broader stakeholders and users.”

Speaking with FedScoop, McDermott said that depending on the nature of the issue, automated early warning systems can allow serious cyber incidents to be averted.

“Even just a few minutes’ additional warning of a coming outage can help to preserve critical services. In these situations, it becomes very difficult to keep up everything, but emergency capacity can be used to protect key assets,” he said.

A spokesperson for the U.K. government’s digital service said: “We are aware of the issues with gov.uk which means that users cannot currently access the site. This is a wider issue affecting a number of other websites. We are investigating this as a matter of urgency.”

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Cybersecurity, Technology
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