For a few hours this afternoon it was hard to do banking, book a flight, even board a flight and goodness knows what else after what nerds will describe as a DDoS protection causing a DDos

A DDoS is a “Distributed Denial of Service” meaning traffic is forced on a single point from a distributed network of computers with the aim of crippling that single point.

It is perhaps one of the greatest cyber risks that big businesses face given their public facing interactions these days are primarily via a website or app, so any denial of that service is like locking the doors of a shop with customers waiting to get in.

To mitigate this risk, companies rely on preventative measures, and it is believed that one such measure today caused an outage with widespread impact.

ANZ bank, Commonwealth Bank, Westpac Bank and it’s subsidiaries like St George all had their internet banking services and in some cases public websites rendered inaccessible by users.

Virgin Australia’s website was down, and flights delayed due to “System Errors”, and we’re hearing the NSW Roads and Maritime back end systems for car regos was down too.

Impossible to say for sure why at this stage, however respected IT publication ITnews is reporting some customers of Akamai were being told to “turn off” a layer of software protection called Akamai Prolexic which is designed – wait for it – to prevent Denial of Service Attacks.

Given the swiftness of the response to the outage, it seems very likely this is the case. Early investigations showed a reliance on Akamai by many of these companies for their online content networks.

It should be made clear, this was not a hack of the banks – no data was at risk, or accessed. At this time it’s unclear if this was even an attack, or a system or human error at Akamai or any other company if not Akamai.

What it does show though is how reliant we can be on a single company for services, and how digitally affixed our society and economy are to the internet.