Nationwide Cellular Outage Sparks Urgent Cybersecurity Probe by FBI and DHS as Americans Grapple with Prolonged Service Disruption on AT&T, Verizon, and T-Mobile

Nationwide Cellular Outage Sparks Urgent Cybersecurity Probe by FBI and DHS as Americans Grapple with Prolonged Service Disruption on AT&T, Verizon, and T-Mobile

On Thursday, thousands of Americans experienced a widespread cellular outage, lasting for several hours. AT&T and other major cellular service providers, including Verizon and T-Mobile, were affected.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) are actively investigating the incident to determine if it was a cyberattack.

Possible Cyberattack:

Security experts, including Lee McKnight, an associate professor at Syracuse University, suggest that the outage bears the hallmarks of a massive Distributed Denial of Service (DDOS) attack.

This type of cyber assault aims to overwhelm websites or online services by inundating them with an excessive number of simultaneous requests.

McKnight highlights the rising popularity of DDOS attacks among cybercriminals, citing previous instances like the 2016 Mirai botnet attack on major websites.

Cloud Misconfiguration as a Potential Cause:

McKnight speculates that a cloud misconfiguration, possibly due to human error, could be the cause of the outage. Cloud misconfigurations involve gaps or vulnerabilities in security settings, potentially disrupting system performance.

The professor notes that such misconfigurations could result from unchanged defaults or neglecting security logs, leaving the system susceptible to unauthorized access.

Previous Data Breaches and Cybersecurity Concerns:

AT&T has faced data breaches in the past year, raising concerns about the overall cybersecurity of the affected cellular networks. While most cyberattacks focus on stealing data, the cellular blackout experienced on Thursday is a rare occurrence.

Comparisons are made to historical incidents, such as a solar flare-induced interruption in AT&T’s landline services in 1972, highlighting the vulnerability of communication systems to external factors.

Solar Flare and Atmospheric Interference:

A meteorologist pointed out the occurrence of a solar flare around midnight on the day of the outage, emphasizing the intriguing timing.

While the connection between the solar flare and the cellular outage is uncertain, solar flares can cause radio blackouts, affecting long-range communication systems used by airlines, military groups, and government agencies.

This adds another layer of complexity to the investigation.

Impact on Users and Network Restoration:

The cellular outage, which began around 4 am ET, left many users with iPhones in SOS mode, rendering them unable to make calls or use data services.

While some cellular networks are gradually coming back online, the mystery of what triggered the massive outage remains unanswered.


As federal agencies intensively investigate the nationwide cellular outage, multiple factors come into play, including the possibility of a cyberattack, cloud misconfiguration, and even the influence of solar flares on communication systems.

The incident underscores the importance of robust cybersecurity measures and the need to address potential vulnerabilities in critical infrastructure to prevent and mitigate such disruptions in the future.

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