Tuesday, October 05, 2021

Facebook outage highlighted the instability of the dependence on the web and its Gleichschaltung

Facebook and all of its services such as Instagram, WhatsApp, and Oculus, among others, had a 6-hour-long outage yesterday. Because of the transfer of the unsatisfied FB users elsewhere and their need to constantly check what is going on, other parts of the web got overloaded. The UPC-now-Vodafone cable Internet which I use was down for more than an hour in Czechia, too. It seems that a similar "secondary effect" explanation applies to outages of Bank of America, Southwest Airlines, Zoom, Snapchat, and others.

The root cause was a disappearance of the routing data for Facebook servers from the Internet. Someone did a BGP update, apparently through a web interface, and made a mistake (or a deliberate sabotage, whatever we think about the existence of an intent). The routers across the world were preprogrammed so that no domains related to Facebook existed. This has resulted not only in an inaccessible Facebook for billions of users across the world (all of them); the employees of Facebook couldn't work (which they do through "Workspaces"), either. Independently of that, it was claimed that files with 1.5 billion users' data were offered for sale. Some people have speculated about the relationship between the outage and the screaming by a whistleblower (as far as I understand, it is just some worthless activist who is even more far left than Facebook itself and doesn't have anything whatever except for insults around "hate speech" and similar BS).

In fact, a more dramatic (and comical) consequence of the glitch was that most FB employees couldn't get to their buildings because the locks are operated by an electronic mechanism that basically requires a Facebook login as well. Because you can't log into Facebook, you can't make your key card operate, and that is why you can't even get to the building which might be needed to fix the problem with the Facebook login!

There have been numerous risky points that allowed the scenario that "the fix of Facebook was permanently impossible" because to run a tool that is needed for a fix, you need to log into Facebook, i.e. do something that is broken. For another example, some key passwords from the routers could have been stored on the inaccessible Facebook servers, too. I believe that the fix ultimately required a truly old-fashioned procedure.

Too bad, Facebook was ultimately reconnected to the Internet (despite the fact that during the hours of invisibility, a new owner has bought the Facebook.com domain for 59 dollars: I think that he was completely robbed of his assets by some unfair tricks before the old jerks recaptured the domain).

So Facebook may keep on cooperating in rigging US elections, censoring all genuine conservatives on Planet Earth, silencing all sane people who realize that it is extremely irresponsible and dangerous to mass vaccinate using the new vaccines, and do tons of other nasty things.

But despite this unlucky end, we saw that the Silicon Valley monopoly may turn out to be a pathetic house of cards. I think that others who consider Silicon Valley to be a problem are already designing a method to remove these domains from the Internet and/or brick all their servers in some way. Note that the relevant "level of software" that was responsible for the outage, Border Gateway Protocol, is rather old: the standardized routing machinery was described in 1989 and fully implemented in 1994. It is not really safe or modern.

The computer industry has made a big progress and gradually built many layers that stand on others. An overwhelming fraction of the people only know about the existence (or design) of the layer(s) at the very top – the layers that are extremely far from the "physics" and extremely close to "politics and the humanities", so to say. In practice, these layers mean buttons to censor someone on Facebook etc. But there is still some machine code created by compiling C++, Java, Python, whatever running in between; the data are still being transferred by ethernet cables, 3G, 4G, 5G which depend on lots of hardware, software, conventions to encode and decode information, and physics of electromagnetism; lots of these things are happening through some user interfaces which have additional software and hardware solutions etc. You need routing tables, domain name servers, ... and ultimately there are still microprocessors with transistors and other things.

The whole system sort of works but it has become rather complex and is vulnerable at many levels. Like in the glitches that plagued the world of Idiocracy, it may easily happen that a whole region or a huge company doesn't have competent yet reliable experts understanding a particular layer and this fact may be used to harm or liquidate the company.

Those key cards that didn't work should be seen as a big warning for all those who propose highly unified Internet-based "solutions" for whole nations or the whole mankind. In some sense, the usage of their own "Facebook account" infrastructure was an extremely irresponsible sign of Facebook's arrogance because this architecture makes all parts of Facebook depend on very many others – so to eliminate one may be enough for the elimination of the whole Facebook.

Just imagine that the whole world or the U.S. would switch to some electronic-money-only financial mechanisms. The corresponding domain could be analogously disappeared from the Internet. A drunk or corrupt BGP engineer could do quite some damage with his BGP update. People would be unable to buy and sell things for six hours. Can you imagine the amount of hunger, anger, and panic? If payments became impossible, it could also be much harder to hire someone who fixes some special things that need to be fixed. During such "crises", it is also easier for hackers and/or saboteurs to penetrate to places which are normally protected from them (I mean physically). Because the locks may need to be unlocked and security may be lifted "because these locks just created more problems than benefits", various people may reach various dangerous places. (Bank robberies in several movies were made using this trick, e.g. with a fire alarm.) The data could very well be deleted.

Engineers responsible for such things simply mustn't assume that all parts of the system will always work flawlessly. Data must be backed up to quite some extent. There have to be several layers of protection so that a glitch of a particular magnitude only does a limited harm because of a higher level protection – and there has to be a higher number of these walls (their number keeps on increasing much like the number of layers running the servers themselves). These principles are more important than ever before but I think that the number of engineers who are properly learning this stuff has hugely dropped. Almost all of the students of "engineering" are learning gibberish about diversity instead.

In Czechia, lots of people pay with cards. Before the Covid emergencies, the percentage of payments was about 30% by cards and it grew to a peak of 80% sometime during the worst early lockdowns. About 90% of these card payments are made with NFC (contact-free). After the main wave of the Covid hysteria faded away, Czechs returned to cash. The percentage of the card payments slided to some 35%, just a bit higher than it was in the pre-Covid world. It is totally possible that this small increase would have taken place without Covid, too. Cards are rather popular but the disappearance of cash would surely be hugely unpopular, and for very good reasons.

Even if the card payments increased to 90%, it is a matter of common sense that you need alternatives for the situation when your favorite payment method breaks down. Some new NFC terminals had a very hard time to detect the NFC chip in my phone. I needed the good old card (with NFC). Sometimes the NFC is refused, you need to insert the card and enter your PIN. I think that the planned removal of the magnetic strip is already a bad thing. Sometimes the whole electronic systems break down and you just need the damn cash.

Equally importantly, the good old cash is needed to prevent a totalitarian abuse of the electronic payment system. PayPal has already become one of the rogue companies whose liquidation would make the world a much better place because it joined the companies that harass and, indeed, ban the people who loudly say the truth. This is really an ongoing catastrophe and we simply cannot afford to give a monopoly in these matters to someone who seems as immoral and dangerous as the far left psychopaths controlling Facebook, YouTube, PayPal, and other tools of the neo-Marxist propaganda.

The payment cards must still be "imagined" to be just some technical solutions whose purpose to be exactly equivalent to – but usually logistically more convenient than – the good old cash. Any sign of "genuine inequivalence" is a huge problem! Once we allow some people to "rethink" cash as something that is analogous to the moderation of Facebook posts, we are exposed to a completely existential risk. It's really happening to a limited extent. The same comments obviously apply to "cryptocurrencies". The cryptocurrency networks may be abused by those who control them even more easily than PayPal.

Finances are an extremely important part of the "infrastructure of the civilization" but they are not the only one. As I have mentioned, we also depend on things like BGP and the Internet Protocol. All these layers may be ultimately hijacked by some evil people who resemble the "moderators" of the Big Tech server. App Stores may be compromised. And so can the microprocessors used in very high fractions of the electronic devices. We need to be aware of the threat. We need to prepare for the possibility that everything that uses some standard – including the IP itself – will be compromised. So we really need to think how to build a new Internet from scratch. It is much easier to do it for the second time than the first time. On top of that, it is childish to imagine that "our alternative IP" will run a fair competitive fight against the existing one. Such new additions are bound to be losers as long as the normal "IP" etc. sort of work. The existing structures naturally preserve their de facto monopoly. We see the analogous problems of Parler or Gab. They simply cannot be true alternatives to Twitter etc. as long as Twitter seems to be OK enough for almost everybody.

But at some moment, the leftist terrorists may really start to disconnect many people from the ability to pay or use the Internet Protocol. When the people affected by these things become a politically substantial force, the reasons for the switch to a new IP or new Visa or SWIFT or anything like that will become a priority according to very many people and the motivation to create these things really correct and to really use them may be very strong.

I think that as recently as in 2015, I didn't really expect that something like the Silicon Valley servers would become such clear warriors abusing their power which was supposed to be a purely technological service – I didn't expect that in 2021, I would view YouTube to be about as aggressive extreme leftists as the Daily Kos or some other notorious crackpots. But it did happen. It may happen to finances, the IP etc. These fanatics surely have no moral obstacles that would prevent them from totally compromising any of these things.

These considerations have analogies in the offline world – the central banks are such an analogy. The Czech National Bank became the most hawkish bank in the Western world and it hiked its main interest rate from 0.75% to 1.50% on Thursday; the expectations of the analysts were just for a 0.50% hike (which would already be highest in the world; Hungary slowed down to 0.15% per session). It is common sense that the rates must be hiked now and I actually did expect that 0.75% would have quite some support (although I couldn't know that it would win with all those 5 hawks out of the 7 members – we knew in advance that there were 5 hawks that considered at least 0.50% to be a fact).

The central bank has the mandate to preserve the usable currency by stabilizing its value which mostly means the inflation targeting to 2%, at least in the 1%-3% window. When we're clearly deviating from the allowed interval and some people find it OK to insanely deviate (and the inflation expectations are huge and increasing almost everywhere), it should be basically an automatic duty of the central bank to hike the interest rates. I think that even the discussion about it is a bit strange. The central bankers had to beat the expectations of the market because the expectation of a 0.50% hike were still compatible with another expectation that the inflation will grow well above 5% and the central bank just shouldn't allow such a development and has tools to prevent it! It is the basic duty of these people according to the law. A wise law.

Now, lots of people or companies across the political aisles didn't want the interest rate hike. That included the prime minister and the finance minister that increased the debt to some CZK 2.5 trillion, by CZK 0.8 trillion, during the pandemic (and also the leader of the Tricolor which I will vote for, anyway: the redhead probably has borrowed a lot of money, too, but I am sure that she will be ignored by the central bank). It is not a lethally dangerously high debt yet, like one in Italy etc., but it is pretty high and of course the interests cost something. The finance minister would surely prefer to pay lower interests and add money to pensioners and government employees and to buy voters. But it's the wrong thing to do.

Our laws are wise and unambiguous. The central bank is independent from the government (in the narrow sense: from the prime minister and his ministers). It's because the existence of a currency with a predictable value is necessary for the sensible planning of investment and fair contracts that involve monetary compensations and the future. It is equally important for the individual workers, companies, as well as the ministries. This existence of a currency that makes some sense is primary and all the behavior of the government (ministers) depend on it! So it is obvious that the central bank must view the ministers just as "some players with interests". The interests are obvious given their financial position. Whoever has a big debt, will prefer lower interest rates and high inflation so that the debt disappears! People with nontrivial savings (and there are millions of them in Czechia) will surely prefer the opposite, high real interest rates (the real interest rates remain at minus 3% or so in Czechia). Stocks are generally "neutral" while growth stocks (mostly tech) would suffer from very high interest rates; some other stocks (like banks) may benefit from high interest rates.

I started with the technical vulnerabilities but too many people are too irresponsible when it comes to many important things that simply mustn't become assets of one group with very special interests or one party. The fiat money is the greatest way to run the economy but it only works when the money and its value can't be compromised by selected players. Some people got so much power that they should absolutely not have that they have lost all the humility and respect towards almost all the pillars that make our civilization work. The finance minister would not hesitate to threaten the Czech currency just because it would be easier for her to pay the interests from the public debt (which is so high due to her largely irresponsible previous waste of money). But despite her amusing honesty with which she admitted that she wanted lower rates because it would be easier for her, our finance minister is still among the most sensible ones. In the U.S. and other Western countries, the fatally important separation of the central bank and the administration (that invents its insane $3.5 trillion plans etc.) has disappeared almost completely. The central bank isn't hiding that it's trying to make it easier for the government to increase the debt further. Such a cooperation increases the instability, the explosion away from stability, because in a healthy situation, the central bank compensates most of the imbalances created by the markets as well as the ministers (in that sense, the central bank must act "oppositely" than the ministers!).

The American-style cooperation of the Fed and the Biden team is clearly a road to hell (and a very fast route there), a hell similar to the collapse of the Soviet Union, despite the fact that lots of "good intentions" are quoted when this pernicious union of the Federal Reserve and the Biden Administration is being justified. Everyone who doesn't see or who denies this fact is an absolutely dangerous, arrogant idiot. Things like the money, access to energy, food, ... must remain sacred and usable by everyone and no one (especially not governments that arose from rigged elections) must have the ability to abuse these things for his or her or their own benefit let alone for the suppression of the political opposition.

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