On Tuesday (15th June), hundreds of thousands of people across the States experienced drop-outs in mobile phone service. Unable to make calls or send texts, customers all over the country took to social media to complain about the outage.
Before long, the topic began trending on Twitter and soon there were reports that the US had been hit by the “biggest cyber attack in history”. This understandably caused a bit of a panic among smartphone users stateside, as rumours that the Chinese government was involved flew around cyberspace.
An anonymous Twitter user with 6.5 million followers, added considerable fuel to the flames by tweeting a map of the globe that seemed to show that something sinister was going on.
But was this really an act of cyber terrorism? Well the short answer is no.
The root of the problem can actually be traced back to T-Mobile, which experienced some issues with its cellular network on Tuesday afternoon. And this is what caused many customers to experience connectivity issues across the country.
Mike Sievert, the T-Mobile CEO, issued a statement later that day, which said: "T-Mobile has been experiencing a voice and text issue that has intermittently impacted customers in markets across the U.S.
"This is an IP traffic related issue that has created significant capacity issues in the network core throughout the day,"
The problem was resolved in the early hours of Wednesday morning (16th June) and phone service has now returned to normal throughout the US.
However, this incident does illustrate how quickly rumours and conspiracy theories can be spread online. And in this era of fake news, it’s more important than ever to remain vigilant and use viable sources to fact-check far-fetched claims.
Cybersecurity specialist at ESET, Jake Moore, commented, "Rumors spread like wildfire on the internet, and it's usually horror sounding stories like this that travel the fastest. Fact-checking before sharing is vital, but as it takes time, many people tend to just read a headline before sharing it, which adds fuel to the fire."
Find out what WhatsApp is doing to help combat fake news.