Square Resolves Daylong Outage Caused By DNS Error


Square, the popular payments technology giant, has announced that it has successfully resolved the daylong outage that affected its services. Contrary to initial concerns, there is “no evidence” to suggest that the outage was the result of a cyberattack, according to Square’s post-mortem analysis.

Key Takeaway

Square’s daylong outage, initially feared to be a cyberattack, was ultimately attributed to a DNS issue. DNS misconfiguration or incorrect changes can cause an entire company to appear offline. DNS issues are commonplace, and their complexity contributes to their frequency. While cyberattacks targeting DNS services have occurred, further investigation reveals that Square’s recent outage was solely caused by a DNS error and has since been resolved.

DNS Issue Identified as Root Cause

During the outage, Square discovered that the problem was caused by a DNS issue. DNS, or domain name system, is a critical global protocol that converts user-friendly web addresses into IP addresses, allowing computers to locate and load websites. In the case of Square, misconfigured or erroneous DNS settings led to the entire company appearing as if it had disappeared from the internet.

According to Square’s blog post, the outage occurred while the company was making routine updates to its internal network software. Unfortunately, these updates resulted in systems losing the ability to communicate properly with one another, resulting in the disruption. Additionally, many of Square’s internal tools for troubleshooting and support were temporarily unavailable during this time.

DNS issues are not uncommon, given the complexity of the protocol. It is widely known in cybersecurity circles that “it’s always DNS,” highlighting the challenges associated with DNS configuration. Similar to DNS, the Border Gateway Protocol (BGP) also presents complexities for internet protocols and can disrupt even the largest companies globally. Since DNS relies on distributed servers offered by various internet and networking providers, changes to DNS settings can take anywhere from minutes to hours, or even days, to propagate globally.

Square has not provided specific details about the DNS issue itself, and the company’s spokesperson did not respond to requests for comment.

Past DNS Incidents and Cyberattacks

While DNS issues are not rare, cyberattacks targeting DNS services have occurred in the past. Notion, a note-taking app, experienced a DNS issue in 2021, causing the platform to go offline for several hours. Similarly, major global sites, including banks and airlines, were affected by an outage at Akamai, a prominent DNS services provider, months later.

One notable instance of a cyberattack targeting DNS services was the 2016 attack on Dyn, a prominent DNS provider. Enormous waves of junk traffic orchestrated by a massive botnet infected with the Mirai malware disrupted Dyn’s DNS servers. As a result, popular online platforms such as Twitter, SoundCloud, Spotify, and Shopify experienced significant downtime.

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