All of Google's service offerings went offline in some parts of the world during an unusual half-hour outage that mainly affected users in Asia, according to content delivery network provider CloudFlare.
CloudFlare Network Engineer Tom Paseka wrote in an official blog post that the Google Apps services went down at about 2:30 a.m. UTC, and a quick investigation revealed that the search giant's public DNS server was offline as well.
The first clue came when Paseka saw that an ISP in Indonesia was part of the network path to Google.
"That was curious. Normally, we shouldn't be seeing an Indonesian ISP (Moratel) in the path to Google. I jumped on one of CloudFlare's routers to check what was going on," he wrote.
The root of the problem, according to Paseka, was that Moratel's network was reporting erroneous data to other service providers, making it seem as though it was hosting addresses that were in fact elsewhere.
"The Indonesian ISP confirmed this wasn't a configuration issue, but rather unexpected behavior from failed equipment in their network. This sort of issue unfortunately happens a lot across the Internet, though maybe not with as big a view or impact," he said in an email to Network World.
Most U.S. users shouldn't have seen an impact, though the problem was likely widely noticed in Asia in general, and Hong Kong in particular, thanks to a popular regional ISP "over-trusting" Moratel.
"The problem was exacerbated by [ISP] PCCW over-trusting what they were accepting from the Indonesian ISP, rather than filtering what they know to be correct," he said.
While, in this case, the problem was a simple error, Paseka told Network World that the basic idea of networks routing traffic to the wrong addresses can be used to perform "man-in-the-middle" attacks -- which can allow traffic to be intercepted and monitored.