Second BT outage calls into question security of critical infrastructure

BT broadband not having a good week
BT broadband not having a good week

The second consecutive outage of BT broadband in two days calls into question the security of the country's critical communications infrastructure.

That's according to professor of information security at Surrey University, Alan Woodward.

BT's broadband services were affected today by a failure at Telehouse North, an exchange in London's Docklands. According to BT, it was a result of a tripped circuit breaker. Five percent of its customer base was affected. Full service was reportedly restored by 1.45pm.

This follows a major outage yesterday morning lasting a few hours and affecting about 10 percent of its customer base. This was blamed on a power failure at Telecity Harbour Exchange, where BT as well as other ISPs join the LINX peer exchange. The power outage at Telecity lasted for about an hour, from just before 8am until 9.15am, when full connectivity was restored.

BT was not the only organisation affected – HMRC also apologised to users of its web services about connection problems.

Prof Woodward said a second consecutive day of problems underscores his ongoing concerns about the potential for serious disruptions at internet-critical facilities.

“It's extraordinary to think that in a piece of critical infrastructure like this that the power is so susceptible to disruption,” he told SCMagazineUK.com. “This appears to be a completely separate problem to yesterday which makes it all the more concerning.”

He added: “Despite what the various press releases have said, I take little comfort from the fact that they claim they have backup systems: clearly whatever redundancy is built in is insufficient based on empirical evidence.”

Yesterday in comments to SC, Woodward was critical of BT for allowing a single point of failure to affect broadband services. “I received quite a bit of criticism yesterday for my comments with people saying it was an exceptional case. The fact that a similar but apparently unrelated issue caused the same disruption the very next day makes my point I feel,” he said.

“Security is not just about preventing attacks, but is also about reliability,” he concluded. 

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