AT&T phone customers experience loss of service after widespread outages

The recent service outage at AT&T was not believed to be a cyber-attack

AT&T has apologised for the widespread outages that affected tens of thousands of customers on Thursday, but said that the network failure was not due to a cyber-attack.  

The default response in large sections of the media and online platforms such as X when outages of this nature occur is to attribute the cause to a malicious actor, though in this instance that appears not to be the case. 

The major US provider said in a statement that the outages were due to “the application and execution of an incorrect process” during network expansion, rather than a cyber-attack. The mobile network is reportedly the largest in the US, serving over 100 million people. The outage caused difficulties with customers trying to contact 911 and other emergency services, leaving them to text the number for help in case of an emergency. 

The White House said it still did not have any information about what caused the incident but said it was confident it had not stemmed from a cyber security attack.  

According to CNN, John Kirby, a National Security spokesperson, said the Department of Homeland Security and the FBI are looking into the Thursday incident and contacting partners to “see what we can do from a federal perspective to lend a hand to their investigative efforts to figure out what happened there.” 

The BBC reported that AT&T customer complaints peaked at just over 74,000, with hotspots in the south and east, as shown by Downdetector, an online platform that provides users with real-time information on websites and services. 

Cricket Wireless, a small carrier, also reported service interruptions, as did customers with two other small carriers, UScellular and Consumer Cellular. 

Downdetector's heatmap showed major population centres including Los Angeles, Chicago, Houston, and Atlanta were among those facing the highest number of outages. 

This outage may be a case of human error, however, the initial nervousness and response to the incident does highlight how such events can swiftly rise to the top of the news agenda, when 100 million consumers are potentially affected. 

 Network providers, the authorities, business continuity experts and risk professionals will also have taken note and have added the incident to the ever-growing list of cyber what-if scenarios 

Post Date: 23/02/2024

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