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Hack attack kills thousands of Aussie websites

AFP investigates potential industrial espionage

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Thousands of Australian websites have irretrievably lost their data and email files following a malicious security hack on Australian domain registrar and web host Distribute.IT.

The company has been scrambling to save data and get customers back online or moved to safe servers since the security breach occurred over a week ago, but has largely failed to recover data from the affected server’s shared servers.

A technical expert working on the recovery has described the incident as “the largest IT disruption that has ever happened in Australia.” Initial speculation and timing of the incident pointed the finger at hacking group LulzSec. However, a notorious local hacker going by the tag ‘Pseudonym of Evil from efnet’, was subsequently rumoured to be behind it following a defacement message appearing on the company's website. Neither have been confirmed as the culprits.

Distribute.IT continues to work with the Australian Federal Police to trace the architect of the attack but source close to the matter claim that the incident is less hack and more industrial espionage.

Distribute.IT’s posts to customers suggest as much describing the attack as a “deliberate aim at the company and our clients.” The nature and the extent of the malicious attack takes it beyond a pranking style data heist to a new level of systematic destruction.

The offenders not only wiped the servers but all the backup data for every server involved. “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 said in its last blog post.

The net effect is 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. 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,” the company said.

Distribute.IT confirmed that 4,800 domains and accounts could not be moved safely to other parts of the platform, “and at this point we cannot undertake further provisioning of servers & accounts on the current infrastructure. This leaves us little choice but to assist you in any way possible to transfer your hosting and email needs to other hosting providers.”

The Register understands that other data centre providers such as Melbourne based Micon21 have been trying to help the distressed company move its clients to a safe haven, while the data recovery measures continued. It is unclear whether Distribute.IT can continue trading after the attack or if it will recover as a business. “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,” the company said. ®

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