Tales of the Rampant Coyote

Adventures in Indie Gaming!

Nuke the entire site from orbit – it’s the only way to be sure

Posted by Rampant Coyote on April 28, 2014

I feel like a guy who decided he had been pushing his luck for too many years without having a fire extinguisher in his kitchen, and goes out to buy one… only to have his kitchen burn down while he’s off at the store buying the fire extinguisher. Or something.

I finally got to my final straw with some of the nasty little automated attacks on this site (mainly via the blog), after numerous attempts to “clean stuff out” piecemeal. I finally decided that it would be best to take the advice of Ellen Ripley in Aliens: “…Nuke the entire site from orbit. It’s the only way to be sure.” Clear out everything, and re-install WordPress from scratch. Sounded like a good idea in my head. And probably something that wouldn’t take more than a couple of hours. After all, all the key information is kept in the database, not the files.

WELL, a couple of funny things happened on the way to doing that.

First of all… I’m a cautious guy. Or at least I try to be. I wanted to make sure I had a complete backup of everything before I started. You know, justincase. You never know when you might need that. So… I figured I’d copy stuff out in a backup directory. Great idea.

Well, as I intended to do this, I found I already had a couple of backup directories, including one entitled “broken.” Yeah, those had been there for years, and I’d ignored them. Well, I might as well delete those ancient backups that I hadn’t looked at in years, and then create a fresh one.

It turns out, one of those backups wasn’t really a backup. It was a symbolic link back to the main directory. So now that I’d “cleared out” some space, I went back to the website directory and found it… gone. Baweted. Only a few protected files / directories were left. Oops.

No problem, I thought. Most of it can be reconstructed from my own copy on my hard drive. Except… I had a hard drive crash last year, and I had copied almost everything over to the new drive when I reinstalled Windows, apparently the website development stuff wasn’t part of it. Oops.

So… making a long story a little less long… I had completely nuked my site. Without any complete backups (at least less than five years old).  I had an option, of course, of contacting my hosting service and pleading with them (and probably paying them) to restore from whatever their latest backup of the hard drive might be. Or… if I made the mess, I could just clean it up.

I opted for the latter, and began the 20+ hour ordeal of reconstructing everything from scratch. On the plus side, a completely fresh rebuild of everything might finally kill whatever had compromised the blog. And – also a plus – a lot of the critical information on my site was now stored in databases, so I really just had to see if I could dig up the art resources (some of which I grabbed via the Internet archive) and rec0nstruct some game sales pages.

So… here we are. There are a few dead links here and there that I still need to clean up, I (temporarily?) have the old Blogger blog pages removed, and some ancient articles that haven’t seen traffic in years. Perhaps the biggest loss is that I lost all the pictures from old blog articles. But… unless you want to spend days reading through the old archives, they probably won’t be missed too much.

The big trick is what to do with the “community” pages. I disabled those a long time ago because the evil spambots had completely overwhelmed the server and the tools, in spite of multiple security checks (which had served me well for a couple of years, but seemingly overnight were rendered completely useless).

So here we are. And I’m now pondering ways to really improve on this place, now that I was forced to do a massive repair / reconstruction. The problem is that anything I do takes time away from making games, which I love doing much more. Well, most of the time. I like doing things with this site and really want it to be a great resource for genre fans… but I love making games. I have to be careful with that balance.


Filed Under: Rampant Games - Comments: 11 Comments to Read

  • Ottomobiehl said,

    Welcome back. 🙂

  • Rampant Coyote said,

    It was a looooong weekend…

  • Anon said,

    Sometimes it’s simply better to start from scratch – like installing Windows… 😉

    Hopefully all works out, Jay!

  • Xian said,

    Sounds like some of the messes I get in. A short, simple job turns into something that consumes an entire weekend.

    Hope that helps by clearing out the cobwebs, but I have to wonder how much of it comes from exploits of the WordPress platform rather than other means.

  • Rampant Coyote said,

    Considering how the reported compromises (I never saw them myself — it’s like they were smart and hid from me…) were centered around redirects from the blog to other sites, I’d not be surprised. But there were bad files in my old blogger directories, too. So I’m not sure.

  • McTeddy said,

    It’s crazy how much work in indy game development has nothing to do with making games.

    Well, it’s good to have you back.

  • Adamantyr said,

    Nice to have the site back! I actually haven’t been able to view it at work for a long time… something with the work proxy caused your blog page to load with a Fannie May Loan advertisement replacing all the text and graphics… very strange.

  • Rampant Coyote said,

    That’s exactly why I nuked it. Some people would encounter that intermittently (I guess some more than that). But it was “smart” or something and so I could *NEVER* see it. So I kept thinking I’d fixed it.

  • Cuthalion said,

    Good to see the site again.

  • Incindium said,

    The refreshed site loads much faster now so I think that it probably the bests thing in the long run to have it cleaned up and refreshed.

  • Chris said,

    Man, that exact thing has happened to me also in the past when I try to get a PC running clean again. I thought I knew what I was doing, thinking I was making prudent precautions, but then in one fatal step I messed it all up to the point where I had to just literally start from scratch. I’m glad the blog is back now, always enjoy reading your thoughts on the gaming industry and your personal endeavors.