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article imageMan who 'deleted his company' with code bug reveals it was a hoax

By James Walker     Apr 18, 2016 in Technology
The man who last week claimed to have deleted his entire business by running a single line of buggy code on his servers has revealed his original post was a hoax. The self-promotion effort was inspired by a real incident several years ago though.
Reports of Marco Marsala's claim on server administration forum Server Fault began to spread last week. Marsala explained how he had managed to delete his entire business by running a single line of code, "rm -rf", on all his Linux servers, force removing every file.
The hapless administrator even managed to delete his backups. Marsala claimed to have recently mounted the remote backup servers to his computer so they were also wiped by the command. He headed to Server Fault, supposedly to get help on restoring the data.
Forum users referred Marsala to professional data recovery experts, advising him he was going out of business and past the point of requiring technical advice. Other users questioned Marsala's approach to security as it shouldn’t be possible to delete everything from one line of code.
Marsala has since confirmed he made the post as a way to promote his company, a small web hosting firm. As Server Fault users began to question whether the post could be a hoax, the forum's moderators took a more serious approach and contacted Marsala directly. He admitted it had been intended as a promotional stunt.
In an interview with Italian news site Repubblica, Marsala claimed the post was "just a joke." He said it had been based on a real incident in which somebody he knew did manage to delete their company with a single line of code. This allegedly happened over 10 years ago, before 2006.
Marsala suggested people should have spotted the hoax sooner. He pointed out that Ansible, the server maintenance software he said the buggy script was run in, includes mechanisms to prevent the devastating "rm -rf" command from being run. He described his post as "an experiment to prove how no one knows these things," adding "The command I mentioned in the article is harmless, but it seems that almost no one has noticed."
The moderators at Server Fault have now removed Marsala's original post, describing it as an "abuse" of the forum. The moderators have asked the community to vote on what to do with the question. Forums hosted by Stack Overflow are used by IT professionals to share knowledge and seek help on problems.
As marketing efforts go, this one seems to be unique. Needless to say, web hosting companies don't generally advertise their services by claiming to have deleted the websites of their customers. Publicly asking for help to resolve an evidently flawed maintenance routine probably isn't the best way to gain new customers.
Marsala is now attracting even more negative attention for misusing a serious forum in the name of self-promotion. Stack Overflow frowns on anyone who acts in this way and Marsala is likely to be severely penalised by the community. Users are currently debating whether to wipe his account and block him from Server Fault.
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