So, just in case you're not aware, the website for The PCLinuxOS Magazine was struck by ransomware in mid-June. Other than just pure, criminal extortion, there was no reason to strike the magazine's website. The magazine website does not use trackers. The magazine website does not collect any PPI (personal private information). The magazine website does not sell anything. Everything there is offered up FOR FREE. There was literally NOTHING for the attackers to profit from. No customer data, nothing. Attacking the magazine website is just pure criminal extortion.
For the entire time that I've been the Chief Editor of the magazine – all 14 years – we've had the same "budget." You want to know what that budget is/was? $0.00. Yep. That's right. Zero. Zilch. Nada.
Our staff is TOTALLY composed of VOLUNTEERS from the PCLinuxOS community. Everyone DONATES their time and talents to produce the magazine. No one gets paid, and we use FOSS software to publish the magazine. All of that software is available to any PCLinuxOS user from the PCLinuxOS repository.
The criminal wanted a ransom of 0.1 BitCoin to "unlock" all of our files. At the time of the attack, that amounted to nearly $2,600 (U.S.). Of course, anyone who has even an inkling of knowledge about ransomware knows there's a high likelihood that even if the ransom is paid, you'll never hear from the attacker again, and you'll never receive the means to unlock the captive files.
That forced us to "restore" the magazine site using an old backup from 2018. That was the newest backup we had that we knew to be "clean." That meant that we "lost" everything from December 2018 until June 2023. Since we are all volunteers, spread out across the globe, we were able to fill in most of the missing files. The PDF files were restored pretty much the same day that the ransomware attack occurred. The ebook files were restored a day later. The CrankyZombie, a.k.a. YouCanToo, had all of the HTML files, and had them restored in short order.
The only files we weren't able to recover were the "log files" that kept track of page visits and download counts. Que sera sera. We can live without those files.
The real urgency was to get the site back up and functional as quickly as possible. Between myself and Meemaw, we had all of the PDF files backed up on our computers. PCLinuxOS forum member The Chief sent me all of the missing ebook files, which I uploaded to the server. I was able to quickly recreate all of the missing cover art files from the collection of PDF files, using a special bash script that I had written and forgotten about.
Yes, it was a LOT of unnecessary work, thanks to some jacka$$ looking to extort money from an all volunteer magazine that has a budget of $0. But, at the same time, it was necessary work, so that we could get the website back up and functional as quickly as possible.
We have yet to do a full postmortem on the ransomware attack, and it remains unclear how much information we will be able to obtain from that postmortem. Oftentimes, there is little left to go on when such attacks occur. As far as we were concerned, the really important thing was to return the website to full functionality as quickly as we could.
As much as I'd like to say what measures we've taken to help eliminate any future attacks and outages, I'll just leave it to say that measures have been taken. There's no need to advertise what measures we've taken, other than the fact that we HAVE undertaken additional measures to secure the files that make up the magazine website. All of our measures have been undertaken on our end, and will be completely transparent and unknown to the visitors of the magazine website. If there is a next time, it won't be as much of a scramble to restore the website to full functionality.
This month's cover image was created by Meemaw, from two images found on Pixabay. It celebrates camping, a popular summer activity, with the 4th of July holiday here in the U.S.
Until next month, I bid you peace, happiness, serenity, prosperity, and continued good health!