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By 22 June 2011 | Categories: news

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Hacking attacks have been on the increase lately, with some being cash motivated and others seen almost as acts of defiance.

Last week an Australian web host, Distribut.IT, suffered from a severe hacking attack which resulted in the permanent deletion of 4800 Australian websites. According to the company the attack caused so much damage that four of the company's servers were deemed “unrecoverable.”

"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," Distribute.IT said.

According to the Sydney Morning Herald, questions have however been pouring in from disgruntled users as well as security experts as to why Distribut.IT had not set up offsite backups of the data.

“At this time, we regret to inform that the data, sites and emails that were hosted on Drought, Hurricane, Blizzard and Cyclone [servers] can be considered by all the experts to be unrecoverable,” the company said in a statement.

In addition to a ton of key data, the attack also erased backups, snapshots and other server information, resulting in the company having to inform more than four thousand distraught users that their websites would be gone forever.

The company's main page is still down, with a temporary Google Blogger and Gmail account set up to deal with customer complaints. Since the company has no way of transferring its previous domain names, it's assisting customers with finding other hosting providers.

While large companies will usually have their own site backups at hand, small to medium business owners may not. IBRS Security analyst James Turner talking to the Sydney Morning Herald said, “This could be the nightmare scenario that every small/medium businessperson working on the internet has in the back of their minds. If the attack is as described then the malice behind it is appalling.”

Customers have been taking to the Whirlpool forums to vent their anger and disbelief, with the main thread now spanning over 60 pages. One disgruntled user wrote, “I think I'm in shock... I have lost everything... I couldn't possibly replicate all those years of work again... my whole life's work [has] gone down the drain.”

While the hacking attack itself is obviously the main culprit in the sordid affair, the fact that Distribute.IT didn't have any offsite backups of such sensitive and crucial customer data hardly reflects kindly on them. How would you feel if a service provider “lost” your website?

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