Man who 'deleted company with one line of code' admits it was all a hoax

Marco Masala admits the story was a viral marketing ploy

A man who supposedly erased his entire company with a single line of faulty code has admitted to crying wolf.

Marco Marsala invented the whole story as a guerrilla marketing ploy in order to promote his start-up, which provides outsourced server management, according to an interview with Italian publication Repubblica,.

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Marsala gained internet notoriety last week, after news broke that he had apparently torpedoed his entire web hosting company by accidentally wiping the servers with the command 'rm - rf'.

In a now-deleted post on the support website Server Fault, he asked if there was anything he could do. General consensus was that the error was irreversible. In the words of one commenter: "you're going out of business. You don't need technical advice, you need to call your lawyer".

It turns out, however, that the open-source Ansible platform actually prevents catastrophic errors such as this - at least, according to Marsala.

"The command that I mentioned in the article is harmless but it seems that almost no one has noticed", he said. "Almost every serious administrator uses it but among those who answered no one seems to know."

The story of nuking an entire company with one command is not completely fabricated, though - Marsala claimed that it really happened to an acquaintance. "There was an article in the newspaper", he added.

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Marsala also told the publication he invented the story as "an experiment", in order to test how knowledgeable developers are about this type of thing. "With the inaccuracies that are there in the online comments I could write a book", he said.

15/04/2016: Hosting provider accidently obliterates his company with one line of bad code

A web host appears to have accidently wiped the entire computer network for his company and its clients, obliterating his business in the process.

Hosting provider Marco Marsala accidently instructed his computer to delete everything stored on his servers, removing all of his own company data and that of his 1,535 customers.

After running the destructive code on his own network, Marsala turned to Server Fault, a forum for server experts, to seek assistance for how he might recover his lost data.

Unfortunately, instead of a workable solution, one after another, the experts told him, "your company is now essentially dead".

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The problem command was rm -rf', a piece of code that will delete everything it is instructed to. The rm' portion tells the computer to remove; the r deletes everything within a select directory; and the f stands for force', instructing the computer to ignore the standard warning notifications that come when deleting critical files.

Usually, this piece of code would be used only to wipe specific directories that it was directed it. But because Marsala made an error in his selection, he managed to accidently instruct the computer to wipe everything.

"I run a small hosting provider with more or less 1,535 customers and I use Ansible to automate some operations to be run on all servers," wrote Marsala on the forum.

"Last night I accidentally ran, on all servers, a Bash script with a rm -rf {foo}/{bar} with those variables undefined due to a bug in the code above this line."

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In a situation such as this, the natural expectation would be for a hosting provider to reach for its system-wide backup. But it seemed that Marsala had managed to lose that, too.

"All servers got deleted and the offsite backups too because the remote storage was mounted just before by the same script (that is a backup maintenance script)."

One respondent felt Marsala's should have kept his backups separate from all of his other server data.

"Backups need to be offsite, offline, and incremental. That you could delete them from your main server means they weren't what I would call backups," wrote Tim.

Others were more blunt in their appraisal of the situation, such as Andr Borie, who wrote: "If you really don't have any backups I am sorry to say but you just nuked your entire company".

Michael Hampton wrote: "You're going out of business. You don't need technical advice, you need to call your lawyer".

IT Pro contributor Stephen Pritchard wrote last year that firms neglect disaster recovery plans at their peril. In this particular case, perhaps a watertight insurance policy may also be necessary.

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