The threat of a cyber attack is something that the world’s super powers take very seriously. You see it in movies all the time. The bad guy hacks in and holds the country hostage. Well, that’s literally what nearly happened this week in a ransomware attack that plagued over 100 countries. It could have been a lot worse if not for a 22-year-old British blogger.
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If you’re not aware, ransomware is a type of malware that encrypts a user’s data, then demands payment in exchange for unlocking the data, according to The Guardian.
The blogger, who spoke to various news sources anonymously and wanted to be referred to only as MalwareTech, was able to find a quick and surprisingly cheap way to end the attack that wreaked havoc on organizations such as FedEx and Telefónica as well as the UK’s National Health Service.
Along with Darien Huss, an employee for security firm Proofpoint, MalwareTech and Huss were able to find a “kill switch” embedded in the attack software.
According to MalwareTech, a “kill switch” is often hidden inside attack software in case the maker wants to stop the attack.
“I had a bit of a look into that and then I found a sample of the malware behind it, and saw that it was connecting out to a specific domain, which was not registered. So I picked it up not knowing what it did at the time” he explained.
The domain name was apparently very long and nonsensical, most likely so that no one would be interested in it. Well, luckily for thousands of folks, MalwareTech accidentally discovered that when the domain goes live, it initiates the “kill switch” and ends the attack.
For the mere price of $10.69, the domain was purchased and the attack was stopped. “The intent was to just monitor the spread and see if we could do anything about it later on. But we actually stopped the spread just by registering the domain,” he told Daily Mail.
He warned law enforcement that they should prepare for another attack from the same individuals. “This is not over. The attackers will realize how we stopped it, they’ll change the code and then they’ll start again. Enable windows update, update and then reboot.”
The modest, softly-spoken, 22-year-old Englishman doesn’t want thanks or fame.
“I don’t really want anything, I just want to get back to my job really. My boss rewarded me with a new week off to replace my not-really week off.”
He told the press that he plans to spend his actual week away from work surfing and doing chores for his mother. Seems that’s the least his boss could do for someone who just saved the world.