Brief, global internet outages that can be traced back to software errors

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BOSTON (AP) – A software glitch at a major network provider temporarily took dozens of financial institutions, airlines, and other companies offline during peak business hours in Asia.

According to Akamai, which operates one of the internet’s major content delivery systems, Thursday’s outage was not caused by a cyberattack, but rather by a software bug in a service that protects customers from denial-of-service attacks.

Many of the 500 Akamai customers affected had traffic rerouted within minutes, but it took more than four hours to fully restore the system, the Massachusetts company said. Akamai operates mirror servers for customer websites – so-called edge servers – in 135 countries to speed up access to them.

The Hong Kong stock exchange and the four largest US airlines were affected. Akamai doesn’t name its customers, but says they include more than 300 world banks, 30+ airlines, 200+ national government agencies, and 825 retailers.

Many of the outages were reported by people in Australia trying to do banking, booking flights and accessing postal services in the afternoon. Many services were operational again after about an hour.

Banking services have been severely affected, with Westpac, the Commonwealth, ANZ and St. George down, as well as the website of the Reserve Bank of Australia, the country’s central bank. The Reserve Bank canceled a bond purchase due to technical difficulties with several banks involved.

Virgin Australia airline was also affected, citing Akamai’s content delivery system. The flights went largely as planned after access to their website and guest contact center was restored.

For American, Delta, United and Southwest airlines, the breakdowns increased for a short time. Since the disruptions in the United States occurred late at night, when few planes took off, airline officials said flights were barely or not affected.

Southwest, which had two more unrelated technology issues this week, said its website and other internet-based tools were temporarily disconnected, but flights were not affected. United said there were no ongoing problems early Thursday.

The glitches occurred just days after many of the world’s leading websites went offline for a short time due to a software glitch at Fastly, another major web services company. The company blamed the problem on a software bug that was triggered when a single customer changed a setting.

Brief outages of Internet services are not uncommon and are rarely the result of hacking or other nonsense. However, the recent outages have underscored the importance of a small number of businesses behind the scenes to the operation of the Internet.

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