Wisconsin Weather

Wisconsin Weather - Unfortunate Data Loss; Moving Forward

By Justin Poublon
May 3, 2019 - 8:00 AM CST | 455   0

Wisconsin Weather was hit by a moment of misfortune on Tuesday morning, April 23 2019. Our web host A2 Hosting was impacted by a major ransomware computer virus attack. The entire shared hosting environment at A2 Hosting was taken down, including our database. Our website files such as images, historical data, and html code were stored with a separate host and remained untouched.

Our database however was scrambled and encrypted. Thankfully A2 Hosting was able to restore our database to a two-month old version on Feb 21, 2019. Unfortunately anything that happened on our website between February 21 & April 23, 2019 was completely lost. This includes forecasts, blog posts, storm events, storm reports, warnings, member info, new members, account password changes, account email changes, and preferred locations!

We expected our web host to maintain a recent backup. They did not. That's okay. We are moving forward and the service outage has ended. We do have a couple new bugs with member forecast that will be fixed this weekend.

How this effects you

No data was "taken" ,"leaked", or "stolen". Ransomware locks, encrypts, and holds your data for ransom. The data was lost because the web host cannot recover the encrypted files and won't negotiate with terrorists. You may need to change your account settings or create a new account if you did the following between February 21, 2019 and April 23, 2019:

  • Created a new account or registered for the first time

  • Changed your password, email address, or any account information.

  • Changed your email subscription settings such as subscribing or unsubscribing to NWS email alerts or blog updates

  • Uploaded storm reports, imported images, comments, and posts

  • If you deleted your account. You will see that it has returned. Please contact us for help with this.

If you are worried about your personal data: the only thing we store is your email address. Older accounts still have first and last name data in addition to email address. I will be eliminating first last name fields (and associated records) on the next update so that the only personal information we have is your email address.

Actions You Can Take

If you lost your account, here is what you should do:

For everyone else:

  • Consider updating your password and settings.

  • Log out and log back in.

Avoiding Data Loss & Outages in the future

I'm approaching this as an opportunity for improvement and way to fine tune this beast for the next chapter in Wisconsin Weather history. I've put back-up and fail-safe procedures into action. Below is a list of changes being implemented this week...

  • Database back-ups every four hours to multiple locations.

  • Website backups periodically to multiple locations.

  • Deadmans switches that can be closed (or close automatically) when there is an outage, data loss, or system maintenance. We already have these in place for our email services. Our email services have been off since the outage began but will be reengaged this weekend.

  • Adding a website outage policy to the terms of service.

Moving Forward

We now have only 770 members as a result of the data loss, down from 1000 a couple weeks ago. We've lost quite a few of you! It feels like a death in the family. I'm sorry if this outage has impacted your WISCONSINWX.com experience! Please remember if you're account was lost I would sign up again ASAP! I'll be monitoring the situation with our web host for the next several months. Perhaps they will recover some of our lost data at some point? We are moving forward as if it's gone forever. My goal is to get everyone back by the end of summer!

The big changes I foreshadowed with WIWX 8.0 took a little extra time in development and testing. Had we pushed this live two weeks sooner the timing would have been catastrophic! Everything happens for a reason. Truly a blessing in disguise. When you roam the wild west you will get bit once awhile. Thankfully we learned this lesson now and won't be susceptible going forward.

Thank you for reading, listening, and understanding this unfortunate situation. Feel free to contact us if you have any questions or need help signing back up. Please let us know if you run into any problems.

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