Friday 24 November 2017

The accidental hero who flipped the kill switch

A 22-year-old researcher accidentally activated the ransomware's 'kill switch'
A 22-year-old researcher accidentally activated the ransomware's 'kill switch'
Independent.ie Newsdesk

Independent.ie Newsdesk

A cyber expert shouted "Eureka!" and jumped around excitedly after accidentally activating a "kill switch" that halted the spread of the global cyberattack.

The 22-year-old researcher in the UK has been hailed online as an "accidental hero" after discovering that, upon infecting a new computer, the virus contacts a remote web address and starts taking files hostage only if it finds that address unreachable.

But if it can connect, the WannaCry program terminates itself - a function likely installed by its creator as a fail-safe in case the software became uncontrollable.

He discovered the web address was unregistered and bought it for less than €10, meaning the anonymous blogger, who tweets using the handle @MalwareTechBlog, was able to redirect 5,000 connections per second to a harmless "sinkhole" server.

"I will confess that I was unaware registering the domain would stop the malware until after I registered it. So I can only add 'accidentally stopped an international cyber attack' to my resume," he said.

The process was not entirely accidental, however, as he registered several thousand domains in the past year in his work on computer viruses. But no one anticipated that simply registering the domain would halt the spread of this attack.

But he tweeted that his fix was not a permanent solution. "So long as the domain isn't revoked, this particular strain will no longer cause harm, but patch your systems ASAP as they will try again," he said.

Sunday Independent

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