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Google Shut Down for 15 Minutes, Thought Hacked

Google, which processes some 200 million searches a day, was down for approximately fifteen minutes yesterday evening.

Google shuts down for 15 minutes (AP)

Googling stopped for 15 minutes on Saturday. The world’s leading internet search engine shut down from 6:45 to 7 p.m. eastern time, according to Google spokesman David Krane. “It was not a hacking or a security issue,” said Krane. He said the problem was related to the DNS, or Domain Name System, though Krane did not elaborate. The DNS translates domain names for computers. “Google’s global properties were unavailable for a short period of time,” Krane said. “We’ve remedied the problem and access to Google has been restored worldwide.”

On Wednesday, the company, based in Mountain View, launched its Web Accelerator service. It’s intended to speed access to Web pages by offering cached or compressed copies of sites from Google’s servers.

CNET adds

Google’s Web site was inaccessible for a brief time Saturday and some visitors reported being rerouted to another site, leading some to believe that the search giant had been hacked. […] Rumors that the site was hacked began when visitors were reportedly rerouted to SoGoSearch.com.

Softpedia sees something bigger at work: The death and rebirth of Google

In one of our editorials, Welcome to the Google twilight zone!, we invited you to imagine how the world would look like without Google. Well, yesterday Google “offered” us the chance to see for ourselves. According to the official statements, for 15 minutes, during 6:45 and 7:00 PM Eastern Time, Google was down. And we I say Google was down, I mean the entire range of services: Gmail, Google News, Froogle. Although David Krane, the company’s spokesman, said the servers were down for 15 minutes, several users didn’t have access for approximately 45 minutes. During this time, anyone who typed in www.google.com was redirected to SoGOSearch.com or other pages, convincing many that Google was defeated by hackers.

In reality, it seems it was a DNS problem, or at least that’s what David Krane said for Mercury News , stressing the idea that there was no security or hacking issue. This might be true, since many users reported they could access Google’s services by typing in the IP address of the search engine.

The cause of this problem is still unknown. Some say it was and error generated by Google Web Accelerator, others are convinced this was successful hacking attack. Considering Google’s discretion regarding its products and services, it remains to be seen if an official statement with more details will be released.

Given how much many of us depend on Google’s many services, the fact that they may be vulnerable to shut-down is scary. I guess that’s just life on the Internets.

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About James Joyner
James Joyner is the publisher of Outside the Beltway, an associate professor of security studies at the Marine Corps Command and Staff College, and a nonresident senior fellow at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. He earned a PhD in political science from The University of Alabama. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter.


  1. […] Internet — joy @ 8:51 pm

    I wrote this as a response to a posting over at OTB about Google being hacked on Saturday night Since I took so much time writing it, I figured […]

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  2. joy says:

    No, google was not hacked. What happened was threefold…

    One, a Google employee was updating Google DNS records on a Saturday and messed up the initial update. Which, hey, could happen to anybody… Even though the update was apparently fixed soon after the initial DNS edit was cached and there was a wait for worldwide DNS server caches to flush. The unfortunate thing is that the initial the mistake caused 1 in 4 google.com DNS lookups to fail. Oopsy.

    Secondly, some browsers for some dumb reason will automatically append a .net to a domain name if the .com lookup fails. So, when someone went looking google.com, the lookup failed and then their browser sent them to http://www.google.com.net which apparently redirected to sogosearch.com (FYI: I tried tonight and it didn’t work for me.). Registering the domain name of google.com.net is not illegal, but pretty sneaky.

    Thirdly, what caused a frenzy was that when people were doing Whois lookups and some people with a weird sense of humor used unsusal names for their DNS nameserver machines. So people not familiar with DNS nameserver practices were seeing these unusual names (that don’t mean anything) and posting on various Web sites starting that “OMG Google was hacked”.

    Oddly enough, the only reason why I noticed that Google was down was that I was rushing out the door and needed directions to a restaurant…so I ended up getting frustrated and had to use Yahoo…oh the humanity.

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  3. dabi says:

    It WASNT hacked, dns just had some problems to work, this is normal… (Pinging to http://www.google.com worked all the time)

    Also i was trying to connect to google all the time when it was offline with 2 pc in other linux with firefox and opera and on other windows xp with internet explorer, in windows pc i went to other page because of spyware

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