2009: The year your data died

By Robert X. Cringely, InfoWorld |  Security, data loss, Facebook

Microsoft/Danger have yet to explain what happened, but speculation is rampant. There can only be two reasons for this kind of bungling: One is a Keystone Kops level of ineptitude by a lot of different people at Danger; the other is sabotage. And given the rancor following Microsoft's mostly unreported layoffs of key people at Danger last May, the sabotage theory is starting to gain some traction. All you need is one disgruntled employee with some technical savvy to leave a software time bomb behind.

Exhibit B: The Apple Snow Leopard upgrade. Amazingly, some unlucky Mac users who access their systems using the "guest" login get a special treat: Snow Leopard wipes out their personal data. (As the saying goes, that's no way to treat a guest.) Apple has acknowledged the problem, says only a small number of users have been affected, and is working on a fix. If not for Microsoft's complete bungling of the Sidekick situation, Apple would be in the hot seat this week.

Exhibit C: For the past 10 days or so, Facebook has been grappling with a data loss problem of its own, which it finally acknowledged yesterday. About 0.05 percent of its users -- roughly 150,000 if Facebook's subscription numbers are to be believed -- had their personal profiles flushed down the technology toilet.

I've been in touch with a well-connected Cringester who lost close to 5,000 contacts in Facebook and was in the process of slowing rebuilding her friends list, one FBer at a time, when her account was finally restored. She received an e-mail that attributed the disappearing act to "an extended technical issue." Hmm, ya think so?

However, parties close to sources inside Facebook tell me the service was hacked. (If I can confirm that, or learn more about the actual cause, I'll let you know.)

If that's true, it wouldn't be the first time it's happened -- though it would be the first time so many user profiles were totally scotched. Still, regardless of the cause, it's troubling, especially because I don't know of any way to back that stuff up.

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