Users started complaining about the iPlayer and website issues in the early hours of the morning, with web service down detector indicating major issues from around 7am on Thursday.
The website was showing 500 error code pages, with some parts of it intermittently loading and others completely offline, before it came back online shortly before 11am.
The BBC reported that sources within the organisation said it was a distributed denial of service attack (DDoS) but the BBC press office repeated that it was “a technical issue” and refused to comment on the cause of the outage beyond that. It also confirmed services were now restored and operating normally.
A DDoS attack overwhelms a website with traffic, preventing legitimate users from requesting pages and effectively taking it offline. They are usually used as as a form of protest but can be used as a smokescreen for further, more invasive cyberattacks.
The corporation’s radio and television broadcasts were unaffected but many of the broadcaster’s digital services were taken offline.
Users took to Twitter to declare it as a sign of an impending apocalypse.
BBC News apologised for the outage and said:
The BBC’s press office simply called it a “technical issue”.
The BBC is in the process of migrating more and more of its traditional services to its website, including BBC3, which will become online only from February.
The last major outage of the BBC’s web services was in 2011 when the broadcaster’s bbc.co.uk domain went offline for an hour due to technical problems. Later in 2012 the BBC revealed that it had suffered from cyber attacks, which took its Farsi-language service in London and its telephone and email services offline. In 2014 iPlayer was offline for almost a whole weekend due to a database fault.
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