Amazon S3 hosts some of the most-used web services available and the issues Amazon experienced today were causing partial and complete outages on websites that use them..
Trello, Quora, IFTTT, and Splitwise all appear to be offline, as are websites built with the site-creation service Wix; GroupMe seems to be unable to load assets (The Verge’s own image system, which relies on Amazon, is also down); and Alexa is struggling to stay online, too. Nest’s app was unable to connect to thermostats and other devices for a period of time as well.
Even Amazon’s own status dashboard was affected:
The dashboard not changing color is related to S3 issue. See the banner at the top of the dashboard for updates.
— Amazon Web Services (@awscloud) February 28, 2017
The issue was isolated to Amazon’s “US-EAST-1” data center in Ashburn, VA – a location only revealed recently due to an unrelated news story.
As the world turns to the Internet of Things (IoT) services such as Amazon’s become less a convenience and similar to a utility.
Connected light bulbs, thermostats and other IoT hardware are also being impacted, with many unable to control these devices as a result of the outage.
Consider the NEST’s app that was “unable to connect” to user’s thermostats. Apply the same issue to apps that arm/disarm alarms, unlock doors, turn lights on/off and more and the move from convenience to infrastructure becomes more apparent. Now imagine how much more reliant we will become on these services in the coming years.
The concern isn’t that Americans won’t be able to open their remote-controlled blinds or remotely give their dogs treats. The concern is that a nefarious state or group could use this infrastructure to instantly disable critical infrastructure such as the electric grid by overloading it.
Last October year, hackers used IoT devices such as smart TV’s, thermostats and security cameras to perform a distributed denial of service attack against DNS provider DYN. In that attack, hackers planted software on IoT devices using the Mirai virus that targets the weak default passwords shipped with the electronics. It was highly effective it making large swaths of the internet unfindable.
If hackers instead found a way to take control of centrally-provided services, outages might be the smallest of worries.