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Email provider hack destroys nearly two decades' worth of data

VFEmail says all US-based data is gone.

Abrar Al-Heeti Technology Reporter
Abrar Al-Heeti is a technology reporter for CNET, with an interest in phones, streaming, internet trends, entertainment, pop culture and digital accessibility. She's also worked for CNET's video, culture and news teams. She graduated with bachelor's and master's degrees in journalism from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Though Illinois is home, she now loves San Francisco -- steep inclines and all.
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Abrar Al-Heeti
2 min read
VFEmail hack
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All US data from email provider VFEmail was destroyed by an unknown hacker, deleting nearly two decades' worth of emails, VFEmail said Tuesday.

The email provider, which was founded in 2001, scans each email for viruses and spam before they get to someone's inbox. If a virus is found, it's blocked from getting onto VFEmail's servers.

"Yes, @VFEmail is effectively gone," VFEmail owner Rick Romero said on Twitter. "It will likely not return. I never thought anyone would care about my labor of love so much that they'd want to completely and thoroughly destroy it."

VFEmail began noticing the issue on Monday, tweeting that "All externally facing systems ... in multiple data centers are down." In a following tweet, VFEmail said it had caught a hacker who was in the middle of formatting the backup server. The email provider then tweeted that all US-based data may be lost.

An hour later, VFEmail said the attacker had formatted the disks on every server. "Every file server is lost, every backup server is lost," the provider wrote.

"We have suffered catastrophic destruction at the hands of a hacker," VFEmail wrote on its site. "This person has destroyed all data in the US, both primary and backup systems. We are working to recover what data we can."

The hacker's motivation isn't clear. VFEmail said in a tweet that there was no ransom. "Just attack and destroy."

Some VFEmail users who didn't want their email stored in the US had it stored on servers in the Netherlands, but that data was also destroyed, Romero told CNET. Fortunately, the provider's backup there was intact, so data in the Netherlands was restored, though "It's nowhere near a full restore," he said.

First published Feb. 12, 3:23 p.m. PT.
Update, 4:42 p.m.: Adds comment from Romero.