Quite reasonably, we fear computer attacks from without. But the worst ones, sometimes, come from within:
A man appears to have deleted his entire company with one mistaken piece of code.
By accidentally telling his computer to delete everything in his servers, hosting provider Marco Marsala has seemingly removed all trace of his company and the websites that he looks after for his customers.
Mr Marsala wrote on a forum for server experts called Server Fault that he was now stuck after having accidentally run destructive code on his own computers. But far from advising them how to fix it, most experts informed him that he had just accidentally deleted the data of his company and its clients, and in so doing had probably destroyed his entire company with just one line of code.
That’s one heavy line of code. This is it:
The problem command was “rm -rf”: a basic piece of code that will delete everything it is told to. The “rm” tells the computer to remove; the r deletes everything within a given directory; and the f stands for “force”, telling the computer to ignore the usual warnings that come when deleting files.
Together, the code deleted everything on the computer, including Mr Masarla’s customers’ websites, he wrote. Mr Masarla runs a web hosting company, which looks after the servers and internet connections on which the files for websites are stored.
I once deleted 9,000 or so files, and it was pretty scary to watch them dissolve. Then again, I started in a subdirectory down low enough to insure that the important stuff would remain untouched.
Potential amusement value: Mr Marsala ran this command from Bash, a standard *nix shell. Guess what’s being added to Windows 10.
Update, 18 April: The whole story is starting to unravel a bit.