Ancestry.com Distributed Denial of Service Attack Neutralized

ancestry.com

[Editor's Note: we just received the following communication from Ancestry.com about the recent website outages.]

Around 1:30 p.m. MT on Monday, June 16, 2014, attackers targeted Ancestry with a Distributed Denial of Service attack (DDoS). During the attack, Ancestry websites along with the Find A Grave website were clogged with massive amounts of bogus traffic that took the sites down.

We want to apologize for the inconvenience this has caused and also thank you for your amazing support, as this may have interrupted some of your family history research. We understand how frustrating this can be for our customers, and please know that it was just as frustrating for us too. We appreciate your patience and support as we dealt with this unfortunate incident against Ancestry.

We have since neutralized the DDoS attack and our services have been up since 11:00 a.m. MT today. You should now be able to access all Ancestry and Find A Grave websites, though you may experience issues intermittently as we continue to work through bringing the sites back up to full capacity.

Your data was not compromised by this attack. This attack overloaded our servers with massive amounts of traffic but did not impact or access the data within those servers. No data was impacted in any way.

I would like to thank the Ancestry Web Operations team for working really hard throughout the night to restore the Ancestry and Find A Grave services and build the defenses necessary to mitigate future attacks of this sort. Our Web Operations team is closely monitoring the situation in case the attacks resume and we’re doing everything in our power to protect our websites from situations like this in the future.

Thank you.

Scott Sorensen
Chief Technology Officer

©2014, copyright Thomas MacEntee

Ancestry.com Sites Down Right Now

ddos attack

 

Update 1:00 pm CDT 17 June 2014

See Ancestry.com Distributed Denial of Service Attack Neutralized – Ancestry’s official response to the recent outages.

Update 11:30 am CDT 17 June 2014

Find A Grave seems to be working right now. Also, Ancestry just sent this notes to its affiliates (who make income from selling Ancestry products on their blogs and websites):

Dear Affiliates,

As you may have already noticed, we have been experiencing intermittent site outages. We know this impacts you negatively and we sincerely apologize for that. The developer team is working hard to resolve the issues and we hope to be back functioning in a stable manner soon.

Thank you for your understanding.

Update 10:00 am CDT 17 June 2014

Ancestry.com and Find A Grave are still not accessible as of right now. JewishGen is also powered by Ancestry.com and has had intermittent service but appears to be up for the time being.

Update 8:30 am CDT 17 June 2014

Ancestry.com is down again – a message at the Ancestry Facebook Page states “Unfortunately, the issues we were experiencing yesterday continue today and our service is not currently available. We will keep you posted as we have news to share.”

fold3.com, newspapers.com and RootsWeb are all accessible; Find A Grave is not accessible right now. More updates later today as well as an “official” answer from Ancestry.com to confirm that this is a DDoS attack.

Update 11:00 pm CDT 16 June 2014

Seems that RootsWeb, fold3, and newspapers.com are accessible on a consistent basis. Ancestry.com and Find A Grave are sporadic in terms of connectivity. We’ll update again tomorrow morning.

Update 9:00 pm CDT 16 June 2014

As of 9:00 pm CDT Ancestry.com is back up.

Update 7:00 pm CDT 16 June 2014

Right now fold3.com and newspapers.com appear to be back up.

* * *

Right now, as of 5:00 pm CDT, Ancestry.com is down as well as many other sites including fold3, Find A Grave and even RootsWeb hosted sites for many genealogy societies.

Information received from our contacts at Ancestry.com leads us to believe the outage is due to a Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attack similar to what plagued Evernote and Feedly last week.

Stay tuned here at GeneaBloggers for updates.

©2014, copyright Thomas MacEntee

Ancestry.com Pulls the Plug on Several Sites

myfamily This morning, Ancestry.com, the world’s largest online family history resource, announced that it will be “retiring” five of its properties/services as of 5 September 2014:

I’m sure there are many questions and there will be an ongoing conversation for weeks to come. Let’s remember and use our best skills as genealogists: RESEARCH! This means don’t rely on someone else’s posting at Facebook with misinformation about other Ancestry properties or that Ancestry is next going to do [insert fantastically wild guess based on no concrete information at all].

Yesterday afternoon I participated in a group conference call with several other bloggers to learn the news directly from Ancestry.com upper management and to have our questions answered. See my analysis below of each of these properties including how and why they are shutting down.

For the latest information please visit the Ancestry blog at http://blogs.ancestry.com/ancestry. And to engage in a conversation with other Ancestry.com users and the staff at Ancestry, visit their Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/Ancestry.com.

MyFamily

  • From Ancestry: Current MyFamily users can export their data to a zip file which will contain photos as .jpg files, messages as .txt files etc. Both subscribers (paying members) and users (family members) will be able to access and download data through 5 September 2014. Refunds will be issued on a pro-rata basis and effective as of 5 June 2014.
  • My feedback/insights: The handwriting was on the wall when several years ago Ancestry eliminated the free account feature at MyFamily. I estimate that 90% of those free users never converted to paying members of MyFamily. Also, given the target audience and demographic, MyFamily was a customer support nightmare for certain and probably detracted from the bottom line at Ancestry. In addition, in a world where more Baby Boomers are using Facebook to do the exact same thing they could do at MyFamily and for free, the product had been on life support for some time.

MyCanvas

  • From Ancestry: Between now and 5 September 2014, customers can continue working on current projects and even start new projects but they must finish by 5 September. No new project will be accepted after 4 September 2014. You can order copies of current/saved projects and even print them at home, but there is no data export feature available.
  • My feedback/insights: I always suspected that the actual work to produce MyCanvas products was outsourced and this was confirmed on yesterday’s call. The name was not given, but it could be the very same providers used by Shutterfly, Snapfish, MyPublisher and other publication sites. I have used MyCanvas and thought it was a great product that just wasn’t marketed properly. As time went by, I’ve seen this market expand with other providers and it just didn’t make sense for Ancestry to keep MyCanvas alive. What I suspect we will see is other providers partnering with Ancestry to make it easy to export your Family Tree Maker and Ancestry.com Tree content to a self-published book or a keepsake.

Genealogy.com

  • From Ancestry: All subscriptions will be retired, including member accounts and the ability to contribute to message boards and user home pages. Users can log in and export/print/save information between now and 5 September 2014. Some content on Genealogy.com will be preserved in read-only format including the GenForum message board, Family Tree Maker homepages and the most popular articles.
  • My feedback/insights: A legacy property that Ancestry acquired years ago, the true value of Genealogy.com is in its domain name. I’ve always believed that this domain name should serve as a general “welcome mat” to all the Ancestry services and properties OR be an educational platform for newcomers to family history. We’ll see what Ancestry does with this site once the current content is archived and moved.

Mundia

  • From Ancestry: Mundia trees have always been a part of Ancestry.com. Members can download trees that they’ve created between now and 5 September 2014. Mundia trees can be accessed for free on Ancestry.
  • My feedback/insights: I never understood Mundia. Ancestry did a stealth launch one Saturday night several years ago and it just never took off. I think it was intended as a way to connect with social media users but eventually Ancestry added social media share features into its current offerings including actual records.

Y-DNA and mtDNA tests

  • From Ancestry: Only the Y-DNA and mtDNA tests are being eliminated; Ancestry is devoting more resources to the autosomal test which survey’s a person’s genome at over 700,000 locations and is not limited to just the paternal or maternal line. Effective immediately, Ancestry is no longer selling Y-DNA and mtDNA tests. Customers who have taken the Y-DNA and mtDNA tests can download their raw data at http://www.DNA.ancestry.com
  • My feedback/insights: The elimination of the Y-DNA and mtDNA tests make total sense and Ancestry is keeping up with the evolving technology in the DNA field. One concern I have is what will be done with the actual DNA samples submitted (on the call Ancestry said they would be destroyed as specified in the Terms and Conditions agreed to by those test consumers). Several others on the call also asked if the samples couldn’t be retested using the autosomal test, especially if the sample were from someone who is now deceased. Ancestry has suggested that those who took the Y-DNA and/or mt-DNA tests call customer support with their questions.

What’s Next?

I’m sure there will be plenty of speculation as to what Ancestry may do with some of its other low-performing properties and services in the future as well as legacy acquisitions. It is natural for a company to prune assets that don’t have a high return or a high usage and put resources towards both new technologies and more productive services. That’s all we are seeing here with this news from Ancestry. It has been my belief for sometime that Ancestry.com would eventually take some of these actions and I wouldn’t be surprised if there are more properties to be retired over the next few years; this just makes good business sense.

Yes, there will be consumers and users who aren’t happy and some will ask why they should bother using other services from Ancestry (or even other vendors) and risk losing their data or uploaded information. I always tell other genealogists to make sure they 1) read the Terms and Conditions for any site where you upload data and 2) have an exit strategy for your data in terms of exporting it and importing it to a new platform.

Finally, although I don’t use all of the services targeted for termination by Ancestry, I agree with their move to focus on core services that help expand the ability to research and share one’s roots.

©2014, copyright Thomas MacEntee