What Causes a Sudden Web Page Drop or Outage?

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When a web page drops, it may be your computer, or it may be the website. Image by VLN

There’s nothing more annoying than a sudden web page drop when you’re in the middle of surfing the Internet.

Did the cat knock over your wireless router again, or is there something more sinister going on?

An interested reader has asked Decoded Science – What causes a sudden (as in, one minute, you’re happily browsing away, next minute, nothing seems to work) web page drop?

In many cases, a crashed web page is extremely temporary, so don’t fret – just refresh your browser.

Internet Outage or Network Down?

A sudden web page drop is most likely either the result of an Internet outage in your area or for your home network. How can you tell if your Internet connection is the culprit? Just browse around to other websites. If you’re able to get on other web pages, it’s probably not you – it’s the site you’re trying to access. If you’re still not sure, “Down for everyone” is a simple way to see if a web page is, in fact, down for everyone – or if it is just down for you. If you have multiple computers, try to access the web page via another PC – if you can access it from another computer on the same network, your computer may have stored a snapshot of the ‘down’ page. To fix this, clear your cache and cookies, and try again.

Website Up or Down: Single Page Errors

If the first page of the website you’re trying to access isn’t loading properly, check the homepage of the site. If you can access the homepage, it may be an error on the individual page you were trying to access. If the entire site is down, however, it could be the result of an outage on the site’s server, software problems, or even a malicious attack from an outside source, such as a Denial of Service attack.

Outage Due to Virus or Hacking?

In addition to direct attacks, some viruses – such as the DNS Changer – have been known to rewrite a computer’s DNS entries, directing the computer to bogus DNS servers, which then redirect the query to fake sites. In addition, hackers are adept at inserting themselves into financial transactions. If the site you’re attempting to access is a secure site, such as a banking or other financial site, the drop may be the result of an attempt to access your funds, particularly if you have high balances, as in the High Roller attacks.

How can you stay safe? Run a virus check on your computer before attempting to log in, or entering any credit card information into a financial  site, and always keep your computer’s software up-to-date – these few actions can dramatically reduce your chances of becoming a victim of hacking or a virus.

Sudden Web Page Drops: Simple or Complex

Losing access to the Internet, a website, or even a single web page on a particular website, can be very frustrating, but the process of determining the cause of the outage isn’t all that difficult. When your page goes down suddenly, it could be something very simple or it could be totally out of your hands – you won’t know for sure without doing a little detective work.

Resources:

FBI. DNSChanger Malware. (2011). Accessed September 28, 2012.

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