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Austin Explorer  
#1 Posted : Saturday, August 1, 2020 12:21:19 AM(UTC)
Austin Explorer

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Welcome back! You may have noticed that we went away for about a month in July. What happened?

On July 5th our old web hosting provider was the target of a serious hacking attack. Hacking attacks are common these days and are usually handled with minimal disruption to websites. This one was different. The attackers got access to seemingly all of the web provider's servers and proceeded to encrypt all files and databases on their network. Once complete, all sites became unusable. A demand was then sent asking for a ransom payment in order to obtain a decryption key for the files.

The provider correctly refrained from paying the ransom, but in our opinion did little correctly other than that. Communication with their customers was sporadic at best and required opening tickets to get half baked answers instead of proactively updating us as they made progress (or didn't make progress).

Obviously, we needed to part ways with this organization. The source code for the websites was always kept offsite, so that was not a problem. What was an issue was the database on which the sites run. The database was backed up but the hosting provider had been unclear about whether their backups were also encrypted or not. That evasiveness kept giving us hope that we'd be able to bring the sites back up with little or no data loss. We had our own copy of an older version of the database offsite and that's what we used to jump start the sites and it's the one on which this site is currently running.

There's an unfortunate side effect of using this backup. It's about six months old. So any entries between November 2019 and June 2020 are lost, probably forever.

All photos and track files uploaded over the six months are safe and were always stored elsewhere. We will work with anyone who wants to recreate their lost log entries. If the old hosting provider ever recovers the encrypted database backup (looking less likely by the day) we will sort through the data and bring over all lost log entries, including references to photos and track files.

We have moved all sites to a new hosting provider that appears to support more modern hardware and software, which should lessen the risk of a successful hacking attack than that faced on the old provider. We are also backing up the database on a regular schedule ourselves and moving that backup both to our own machine as well as to another offsite backup location.

We are sorry for the long disruption to the service and have tried to take steps to prevent such an event from happening again.
thanks 1 user thanked Austin Explorer for this useful post.
MikeHikes on 8/1/2020(UTC)
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