Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Marxist Archive

Under Attack By China

(MFL notes: this came from the, for those who do not know what the Marxist Internet Archive, it is the greatest Marxist archive assembled with time that even includes audio-visuals, minutes of the internationals, and almost everything related to Marxism.)

In early November we came under sustained denial of service attack from Internet hosts in China attempting to exploit a misconfiguration in our server's operating system. The nature and origin of the attack, our previous history with the PRC, and the experience of others suggest that this maybe politically motivated and directed by the Chinese government. Protecting ourselves necessitated rebuilding part of the kernel and rebooting the system remotely. The failure of the system to properly boot into the new kernel caused a prolonged outage as we scrambled to find someone with the necessary access to get the system back into the previous configuration.

While the attacks continued and greatly degraded MIA performance, we were understandably cautious about rebuilding the kernel and trying again. On January 15, the server became unresponsive and we asked for it to be remotely rebooted, taking the opportunity to bring it up with the new kernel.

While this alleviated the previous issue, it seems to have uncovered another, more serious, problem with our CPU that causes random errors (machine check exceptions) and cause the system to reboot.

Each time the system reboots, it causes our RAID storage system to reinitialize and rebuild, a lengthy process that severely degrades performance. To make matters worse, the redundant disk in the array seems to be failing.

As if that weren't bad enough, while attempting to make arrangements to buy a new server, we learned that our colocation facility will be closing on February 1, leaving MIA literally homeless.

At the moment, our redundant disk is back online and we are rebuilding the array to protect against data loss on the server. We also have offsite backups of all MIA content should the worst come to pass. We are furiously searching for new hosting space, but our data transfer needs (approximately 1.3TB a month) make this a very difficult choice compared with our previous non-profit host.

The bottom line: there is a significant probability that we will not be able to find and deploy an acceptable solution in time to meet the February 1 lights-out date.

This means that the MIA will be off the air. We will make every attempt to bridge the gap with the help of our dedicated mirror operators though we may need to stop serving some of our more "expensive" content such as MP3s and PDFs.

There is also a chance that our ultimate solution may require us to make a long-term evaluation of the type of content we serve and make things like PDFs available via alternate distribution channels (e.g. BitTorrent). However, despite our recent litany of seemingly fatal problems, the MIA remains a strong organization with a wealth of content, committed to providing the premiere electronic library of Marxist writings. Despite the political, technical, or economic pressures, rest assured that we will find a way to keep these works available to the world.

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