Was mobile service outage in US a cyber attack?

On February 22, 2024, a significant cellular outage affected users across the United States, including major carriers like AT&T, T-Mobile, and Verizon. This disruption, lasting more than 13 hours from 4:30 a.m. to 2:15 p.m., left many without network service, sparking concerns over a potential cyberattack.

Was mobile service outage in US a cyber attack?

The incident was especially severe for AT&T customers, with nearly 32,000 reports of service issues recorded by Downdetector early in the morning. T-Mobile and Verizon experienced over 800 reported outages, though Verizon noted some issues were due to cross-carrier connections.

The outage had widespread implications, disrupting emergency services and affecting smaller carriers such as Boost Mobile, Consumer Cellular, Straight Talk Wireless, and Cricket Wireless. Major cities across the country, including New York, Boston, Atlanta, and Los Angeles, were impacted, as well as Montreal, Canada.

AT&T users experienced significant disruptions, with many phones entering “SOS Mode,” restricting calls to emergency services only. AT&T advised customers to use Wi-Fi calling and managed to restore three-quarters of its network by 11:30 a.m., achieving full service restoration by 2:15 p.m. The company issued an apology and committed to preventing future incidents.

Investigations into the Cause

The outage prompted numerous conspiracy theories, with a cyberattack being the most prevalent. The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and the US Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency began investigations to determine the cause. Despite initial concerns, the White House, through spokesman John Kirby, clarified that there was no evidence of a cyberattack affecting AT&T’s network.

AT&T later explained that the outage was due to a mistake in process execution during network expansion, not external interference. This clarification came after a period of frustration among users over the lack of updates and concerns about the communication infrastructure’s vulnerability.

The incident highlighted the importance of robust and resilient communication networks, prompting federal investigations and commitments from carriers to enhance their systems to prevent similar disruptions in the future.

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