Apple Server Outage Disrupts iOS 6 Wi-Fi Connections

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A server outage at Apple disrupted Wi-Fi connections for many—possibly all—iOS device owners who had upgraded to iOS 6. The issue effectively knocked users off of whatever local Wi-Fi network they were on and kept them from logging back on to that network or on to a new network.

The issue stems from a check within iOS that checks to see if a user is on a network with a pay or Term & Conditions wall. Apple's iOS devices check the Success page on Apple's servers (that's our name for it). If the device gets through, the page returns "Success," which iOS reads without displaying it, and your device goes on its merry way.

If not, iOS knows you're behind a wall, which is how iOS knows to show that popup window for, say, a Starbucks network that requires you to sign off on the T&C before surfing.

What happened on Wednesday was that the Success page stopped working and returned this page, instead:

Error! Error! Danger, Will Robinson!

Analyst Michael Gartenberg Tweeted this Screenshot During the Outage

iOS didn't know how to handle that error page, so it kicked device owners off the local Wi-Fi network. That had the side effect of sending all Web traffic through your cellular connection, which had the practical effect of many people not even realizing anything had changed.

The problem was fixed within minutes (about 25 minutes, for those keeping score at home), plenty of time for the hue and cry to be raised on Twitter and Apple's Support forums.

Now that it's over, look for some questions to be asked about how Apple will prevent this from happening in the future.

Thanks to Jacqui Cheng and @tylerc for pointing out the Success page in the midst of the outage.

Comments

iJack

“If not, iOS knows your behind a wall..”

YOU’RE. as in you are.

Lancashire-Witch

Thanks Bryan….. I wish I’d not been in such as rush to restore my iPad, which caused even more trouble ....

akcarver

If it happened to me, I wouldn’t have noticed, as I wasn’t using my phone this afternoon. I have Cellular Data Network turned off to prevent going over the limits that AT&T has, so I would have noticed if I wouldn’t have been able to connect. Good thing I was napping this afternoon.

ctopher

Watch you’re behind iJack!

so let me get this straight. When I’m using someone’s courtesy wi-fi and there’s one of those “Use it under our terms” page and I agree, that agreement has to go back to Apple.com? (OK, not really apple.com but one of Apple’s servers?)

If I’m on Android where does it go, Google? What if I’m on my linux laptop? Why can’t the courtesy wi-fi supplier router thingamajiggy just let me in based on my acceptance?

Or, am I really missing something.

webjprgm

@ctopher From what I understand, the page on Apple.com is one that iOS knows exists and knows the contents of, so it uses it just to see if there’s an active internet connection that can get out to the world wide web.  If that page cannot be returned, then it just *assumes* you are behind a login / pay wall and prompts brings up the login dialog showing the web page that the pay wall gave back (instead of the Apple “success” page).  You interact with that like a normal web page, which then posts the credentials to the pay wall and access is opened up.

So credentials never go to Apple (or Google, etc.), but it does mean that every time anyone accesses a wifi network with an iOS device there’s a ping to Apple’s servers.

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