Optus Outage Update


As far as we know, the Optus outage was caused by a configuration change to the Border Gateway Protocol (BGP) routes that allow networks to communicate.

Here’s a quick breakdown of the issue, what BGP does, and how it can be prevented.

The facts:

  • Optus had a 14-hour long outage to most of their network on the 8th of November, 2023
  • Many businesses were unable to operate
  • Small businesses were unable to take payment
  • Some customers were reported being unable to make emergency calls to triple-0
  • Customers were left in the dark during the outage

Why did it happen?

  • Optus claims a BGP change brought down the network
  • The BGP change was a scheduled change on the network that went wrong
  • The change appears to have been on Singtel equipment, Optus’ parent company
  • The change led to bad routes propagating to the Optus network in Australia

What is BGP (in a nutshell)?

  • Border Gateway Protocol or BGP is the protocol used by the majority of networks around the world make the Internet (a network of networks) available to users, services, etc.
  • BGP is a protocol used by networks to help traffic identify the best path to its final destination
  • BGP is the means of negotiation between networks to help networks connect to other networks

How did it go wrong?

  • BGP learns it’s routes (or paths) by negotiating with other trusted devices and therefore sharing routes
  • Imagine you’re driving from Sydney to Melbourne. Think of the issue that occurred as a ‘traffic director’ who gave you the wrong direction on how to get from Sydney to Melbourne
  • When the routes go the wrong way, they are typically ‘junked’ by their next hop if the path is not configured

What should businesses do to protect themselves in thefuture?

  • Use more than one Internet link for essential services
  • Your secondary Internet link should be served by a different provider, and if possible via a different connectivity, ie, 5G, NBN, private links
  • Consider the use of bonded internet services to have seamless cutovers between services
  • Small businesses should consider having a backup Internet link on their EFTPOS and payment services

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