Adam Doupé

Associate Professor, Arizona State University
Director, Center for Cybersecurity and Trusted Foundations

Back That Data Up: A Cautionary Tale

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This is a true story that recently happened, and I wanted to share/document it here as a reminder to always backup your research data.

Turns out I was so tired after the 24-hour coding blur that was the 2013 iCTF that I didn’t back up the database. Or if I did, I didn’t check it into our SVN repo. Then, to make matters worse, I didn’t make a note to backup the data later.

Fast-forward to this past Friday (4 months later), when Giovanni Vigna wanted some data from the 2013 iCTF from me. No problem, should be easy, let me just, oh crap, where is that database, is it this file, no that’s the empty table schema, what about on my desktop, tarantino, what about the server, they wiped the server for DEFCON CTF, oh god oh god, it’s all gone.

Luckily for me, a fellow PhD student had the foresight to backup the servers using duplicity before wiping them. This is an excellent policy, and I fully support it for the future. And I was able to extract the mysql database files, put them on my desktop and access the database. And now, the 2013 iCTF database is correctly backed up (on my Dropbox and our SVN repo, which is backed up). Great Success! Or rather: Epic Fail Averted!

Moral of the story: Always make a backup of your research data. Always. Like now, not later.