By Nathalie Voit

A significant outage in Amazon’s cloud computing network disrupted a range of online services on Dec. 8, including services on major e-commerce websites, airlines, and streaming apps. 

The outage, which lasted over five hours, took many users by surprise. According to Amazon, a host of U.S. companies, from auto dealers to news sites, began reporting server down issues around 10:40 a.m. EST until just after 6 p.m. EST.

“Many services have already recovered, however we are working towards full recovery across services,” the company said in its status dashboard at 6:03 EST.

Among the affected services were popular streaming platforms like Netflix and Disney+, which rely on Amazon Web Services (AWS) cloud servers to power their data.

“Netflix, which runs nearly all of its infrastructure on AWS, appears to have lost 26% of its traffic,” said Doug Madory, director of internet analysis for network management platform Kentik.

Trading app Robinhood was also down, according to outage tracking website DownDetector. As many as 24,000 incidents were reported yesterday of people experiencing issues with Amazon and its sub-services, including Prime Video, Amazon Flex, Alexa AI, Amazon Music, and Ring. 

In addition to internal app problems, several new sites were also shut down, including the Associated Press, which lost access to its publishing system. 

According to the official status page, the underlying cause of the issue was “an impairment of several network devices” linked to multiple AWS application programming interfaces, or APIs, in the US-EAST-1 Region.

The outage is not the first the company has experienced this year. According to web tool reviewing website ToolTester, Amazon has experienced 27 outages over the past 12 months. The company is ranked #15 in a list of top 30 “outage prone” websites. 

Some cybersecurity experts are increasingly warning about the consequences of delegating key internet operations to just a handful of providers. 

In June, dozens of high-traffic websites worldwide, including CNN, The New York Times, and even the U.K. government’s home page, went down after content delivery network Fastly experienced a widespread cloud outage for about an hour. Although the outage was not related to a cybersecurity breach or malicious activity, the widespread failure points to the vulnerability of relying on just a few internet hosting services.  

“The latest AWS outage is a prime example of the danger of centralized network infrastructure,” said Sean O’Brien, cybersecurity visiting fellow at Yale Law School. “Though most people browsing the internet or using an app don’t know it, Amazon is baked into most of the apps and websites they use each day.”