Echo Getty Images/Cultura RF
By Jonathan Vanian
April 18, 2016

April Fool’s day may be long gone, but that’s not stopping one prankster from pulling off a big Internet hoax.

Last week, a man claiming to work for a United Kingdom web hosting company admitted a major blunder in a popular IT help forum: He had accidentally deleted all of his company’s data along with the websites stored on the its servers. What made the man’s story so compelling—major news organizations like The Independent and CNBC all covered it—was the fact that he said that he had erased his company with a single line of code.

Because the tool he used relayed his code to every single company server, the man claimed that even the company’s backups were deleted. Good Samaritans on the help forum chimed in with advice on how to retrieve lost data, but the general consensus was that all hope was lost for bringing the websites back to life.

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It turns out, however, that the man’s coding crises was just a hoax. In an interview with an Italian newspaper, the man acknowledged, “It was just a joke.”

He reportedly told the newspaper that he was merely trying to drum up attention for his own unnamed startup in a sort of guerrilla marketing scheme. It’s unclear how exactly the man’s hoax would benefit his startup and its branding.

If anything, the story paints a positive picture on the IT administration software he claimed to have used. The so-called configuration management tool, Ansible, has a feature that prevents the type of catastrophic event the man described in which a single software script can wipe out every server a company maintains.

Still, the story reinforces the need of companies to pay attention to their IT infrastructure in the off chance that something can go awry. It’s just not likely that one line of code can lead to such a disastrous outcome, at least if someone works with the correct tools to prevent unforeseen consequences.

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In an updated story by the Telegraph, the owners of the IT help forum, Stack Overflow, said, “The moderators on Server Fault have been in contact with the author about this, and as you can imagine, they’re not particularly amused by it.”

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