Both Facebook and Instagram were unavailable for approximately 40 minutes late on Jan. 26 due to an outage that was initially feared to be a hacker attack, thanks to public claims made by a hacker group. However, Facebook has denied that it was the victim of an attack.
A hacker group known as Lizard Squad tweeted a message that read "Facebook, Instagram, Tinder, AIM, Hipchat #offline #LizardSquad." That Twitter message prompted some media outlets, including CBS LA, to report that Lizard Squad had claimed responsibility for the Facebook and social site outages.
Lizard Squad has been making a name for itself lately, as the hacker group has claimed responsibility for other high-level outages, including the Xbox Live and Sony PlayStation Network outages over the 2014 Christmas holidays. Lizard Squad has also launched its own online service called LizardStresser, which could potentially be leveraged to launch distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attacks. The actual terms of service for the LizardStresser, however, do not identify the service as a DDoS tool, but rather as a "stress tester" that can be used by individuals to test servers the user owns or has permission to test.
Regardless of the capabilities that Lizard Squad may have, Facebook isn't giving the hacker group credit for the Jan. 26 outage. In a statement, Facebook blamed its and Instagram's outages on an internal configuration error, rather than a malicious hacker attack.
"This was not the result of a third-party attack but instead occurred after we introduced a change that affected our configuration systems," Facebook stated. "We moved quickly to fix the problem, and both services are back to 100 percent for everyone."
The Jan. 26 outage isn't the first time that a software configuration issue led to a service outage for Facebook. In 2010, Facebook was offline for two and half hours due to software flaws in the social networking site's database clusters.
Sean Michael Kerner is a senior editor at eWEEK and InternetNews.com. Follow him on Twitter @TechJournalist.