Print 22 comment(s) - last by tech329.. on Jun 23 at 5:05 AM

Web host says sites are unrecoverable

It's every web administrator's worst nightmare -- your online presence is totally destroyed in a service outage.  That's precisely what happened when Australian domain registrar and web host Distribute.IT was attacked.

Over 4,800 websites were reportedly lost when the hackers struck last Saturday, as four servers were reportedly left unrecoverable.  The company comments:

The overall magnitude of the tragedy and the loss of our information and yours is simply incalculable; and we are distressed by the actions of the parties responsible for this reprehensible act.

At this time, We regret to inform that the data, sites and emails that were hosted on Drought, Hurricane, Blizzard and Cyclone can be considered by all the experts to be unrecoverable," it said.

While every effort will be made to continue to gain access to the lost information from those hosting servers, it seems unlikely that any usable data will can be salvaged from these platforms.

In assessing the situation, our greatest fears have been confirmed that not only was the production data erased during the attack, but also key backups, snapshots and other information that would allow us to reconstruct these servers from the remaining data.

The company promises to help customers "transfer your hosting and email needs to other hosting providers."

For large site owners that likely won't be a problem as they likely have save backup copies of their homepage.  For smaller operators, though, this could be very bad news, as many of them don't have the resources to save backup copies. 

Writes one customer in a local forum, "[The hack] has probably killed my business."

The question remains why Distribute.IT was penetrated so easily and thoroughly.  It is also baffling why they chose not to back up their data off-site as most hosting firms do.

As the potential for abuse of the stolen private information of website owners is great, these factors may play a key role in possible future legal proceedings by site owners against the company.

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RE: Dude, where's my data?
By StevoLincolnite on 6/22/2011 9:44:12 AM , Rating: 2
From what I read a few days ago, the hacker wiped the backups. (Which are on-site)
However, an intrusion such as this would probably have come from some disgruntled ex-employee who knew the layout of the hardware and hence backup systems.
Or a hacker stumbled onto the back-up systems and had a field day thinking all his Christmas's had come at once...

Hopefully some of these websites (Which are small businesses) can use Google cache to retrieve a copy of their website.

RE: Dude, where's my data?
By Dribble on 6/22/2011 10:22:20 AM , Rating: 2
I always thought backups meant tapes in a fireproof safe, preferably off-site? Surely your only backup for data can't be another disk in another machine on the same site - then even a simple fire would wipe out everything.

RE: Dude, where's my data?
By amanojaku on 6/22/2011 10:41:00 AM , Rating: 2
I always thought backups meant tapes in a fireproof safe, preferably off-site?
That's how it used to work, when companies didn't have much to backup besides a database. That model is expensive today since everything (servers and desktops) gets backed up, restoration from tape takes too long and is prone to data corruption, and offsite facilities like Iron Mountain are out of the control of the IT staff.

The newest method of backup is the VTL, or virtual tape library. It's a NAS or SAN that pretends to be a tape device, with greater performance and improved restoration times. You can even do data de-duplication, defrag, etc... Except that the data isn't taken offline, so anyone with network access to the VTL can do all sorts of bad stuff.

There's also the possibility that the backup procedures were lacking. I've seem many environments that left tapes in the backup servers, which an authorized user could erase. And sometimes did, by accident.

RE: Dude, where's my data?
By greylica on 6/22/2011 11:30:26 AM , Rating: 2
What I do here: Generate My Backup, compress with 7-ZIP, and then record it into BD-R -> Library.
If you ask me for a snapshot of DB of January 2006, 5, I will great you with a DVD of the week and the backup is in good state.
All of them are stored with dissecant, in appropriate cases. And when they get 5 years old, I start to switch media from DVD to Blu Ray.
Never lost any backup, never put my job and career at risk. If there's offline media to use, (and very cheap for what they do) let's use it !
The infrastructure to achieve those levels of security is cheaper than Tape Library, even in cases where we have lot's of data.
We have for example a partition with 128GB of documents, even older docs are there. After a full (Ultra) 7-ZIP compression, (Octa Core, 6 Hours of compression), we have 40GB of data split to two U$3,00 BD-R. It's one of our main Backups, and it's done once a week, because there aren't lot's of changes on them over a week (traced). The production DB is backed up once a day, and after compressed, 100GB of data is converted to a simple U$ 0,50 DVD storage.
And I say, we ddin't store them only in the facility, some times, a copy of those backups go to the home of the enterprise owner, avoiding problems like fire, etc.
There's no excuse for online backups only, sorry...

RE: Dude, where's my data?
By Mitch101 on 6/22/2011 12:00:49 PM , Rating: 2
Its the same as home users. LAZY or CHEAP.

Nobody buys or does a backup until they lose information and no one should expect much in way of backup or support from those $2.99 a month hosting packages that a lot of users sign up for.

RE: Dude, where's my data?
By Samus on 6/23/2011 1:21:08 AM , Rating: 1
Wow. I'm an IT consultant and each and every one of my clients have two forms of backup: onsite (USB HDD, Iomega Rev, etc) + offsite (Kryptonite, DataGuard, Symantec...)

The onsite backup is rotated, in many cases daily but some at random, by an employee such as a secretary, instructed to rotate using drives/disks in a small, fireproof lockbox next to the server that has a basic electric keypad.

Point it, these are small, ~10 employee, businesses in greater Chicago area, and this article is telling me a fucking WEB HOST had an inferior backup plan? Dude, 2TB USB drives cost like $100 bucks, go get a couple and rotate the damn things daily on your way out the door for the evening. It takes 20 seconds!! While your at it spending a few bones on the hard drives, get a $50 electronic locking firebox at harbor freight, and if you really want to splurge, which you should, spend a few hundred bucks a year on a popular offsite backup like Kryptonite.

At worst, you'll lose maybe 3 days of recent data.

RE: Dude, where's my data?
By Etsp on 6/22/2011 11:38:21 AM , Rating: 2
Desktops can be reinstalled, usually with clones. Servers can be reconfigured. End-User data can NOT be rebuilt. Customer data can NOT be rebuilt. It's fine to be selective of what you put into an offline backup system, but it is in no way OK to NOT HAVE ONE, and in no way is it OK to NOT TEST IT REGULARLY.

As an aside, what kind of a moron designs a backup system to backup end-user desktops? That's a waste of resources if I've ever heard it. Have users save their data on a network share that gets backed up. Have a clone of their PC configuration ready in the event of a hardware failure. Now, suddenly, there is no need to include end-user PC's in a regular backup. (Upper Management/Executive PC's are a different story... CYA there.)

RE: Dude, where's my data?
By amanojaku on 6/22/2011 12:36:47 PM , Rating: 2
@greylica, no executive in a large company is going to do what you described. Yes, it is inexpensive. No, it is not simple for a c-level or VP with a head like a box of rocks.

@Etsp, I agree that you must have a backup solution, and that it must be tested. I have a NAS and I've pulled drives hot, added larger drives to resize the volume, pulled power cords, etc... just to see what happens.

As to desktop backup being unnecessary... That depends on the company. Yes, a NAS or SAN should be the default location for user data. This way the desktop/laptop/thin client becomes a generic processing node, and backup is typically (but not always) done at the array level. Centralized storage is the default model in VDI environments running Citrix XenDesktop or VMware View, as well.

However, offline and/or remote users cannot work with this model. A person on a plane does not (yet) have access to company resources, and low bandwidth to remote locations restricts file transfer and modification over the WAN for large files. Worse, these users tend to have sensitive data, so backup becomes a necessity. Small brokerage firms with offices across the globe fall into this category, with a total head count of 100 folks, 40-50 in NYC, 10-20 in London, 10-20 in Hong Kong or Singapore, and 1-5 person-offices everywhere else. Worse, these organizations don't have or want to spend the money for an enterprise NAS/SAN, which usually starts at $250K.

RE: Dude, where's my data?
By BZDTemp on 6/22/2011 6:03:59 PM , Rating: 2
There's also the possibility that the backup procedures were lacking.

Exactly - stupid mistakes are made. I've seen a 600 house holiday resort lose all their booking data because their Mini caught fire and their backup tape was lying on top of the machine (they fortunately had paper copies of all the reservations send out - it only took 6 man months to get them back in a computer).

RE: Dude, where's my data?
By deathwombat on 6/23/2011 4:10:04 AM , Rating: 2
That would give them the HTML output, but not the code (PHP, ASP, etc.) that generated it. If all I had was a copy of my website's HTML, and not the source code, I would have to manually edit each of the thousands of pages on the site in order to make any changes. It would be 10 to 100 times more work, and would probably kill the site.

Of course, that being said, I keep multiple backups of the site code, files, and databases. Knowing that something like this can happen makes me glad that I do.

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