Telecom

AT&T Says Outage Wasn't Cyberattack Despite Widespread Conspiracy Theories Online

Author: Matt Novak
February 23, 2024 at 10:03
Cellular towers are shown on February 22, 2024 in Redondo Beach, California.Photo: Eric Thayer/Getty Images (Getty Images)
Cellular towers are shown on February 22, 2024 in Redondo Beach, California.Photo: Eric Thayer/Getty Images (Getty Images)

Social media users speculated it might have been caused by China or a "false flag" staged by "globalists."

AT&T issued a statement Thursday night to explain that the telecom’s widespread network outage earlier in the day wasn’t caused by a cyberattack. Countless conspiracy theories emerged online Thursday morning as people naturally wondered why they’d lost service—theories that will hopefully be put to rest as AT&T investigates the exact cause of the service disruption.

“Based on our initial review, we believe that today’s outage was caused by the application and execution of an incorrect process used as we were expanding our network, not a cyber attack,” AT&T said in a statement published to its website.

“We are continuing our assessment of today’s outage to ensure we keep delivering the service that our customers deserve,” the statement concluded without going into more detail.

Social media was swamped with wild ideas on Thursday about what may have been behind the outage, including an attack by a geopolitical adversary of the U.S. like China or Russia. Alex Jones, America’s most well-known professional conspiracy theorist, insisted during his show on Thursday that there was an 80% chance it was China, and a smaller chance it was the “globalists themselves,” who might be carrying out a “false flag” attack.

The Netflix movie Leave the World Behind, became a popular point of reference on social media sites like X, given the fact that it depicts an attack by an unknown entity that wipes out all communications. Conspiracy theorists and regular social media users alike shared images from the movie, which stars Julia Roberts, Ethan Hawke, and Mahershala Ali, worried that something nefarious might be happening.

The outage was initially thought to include many more carriers than AT&T, but reports to Down Detector for other phone providers were likely a result of users simply being connected to AT&T’s network despite paying another carrier for service. AT&T’s network appeared to be fully restored by mid-afternoon Eastern time.

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