“Email provider VFEmail said it has suffered a catastrophic destruction of all of its servers by an unknown assailant who wiped out almost two decades’ worth of data and backups in a matter of hours.” The hacker (or hackers) acquired multiple passwords related to the service, and formatted all hard drives related to the serving of email. They were discovered in the middle of formatting the backup server. The email is “effectively gone” as stated in the article.
This is a good reminder that it’s important to have a backup of your IMAP mail or other online email (such as Yahoo Mail or Gmail) to your local computer, which also has a backup. Backups are a good idea always, in all circumstances.