Whiz stops cyber attack with $15

Saturday

A cyber attack sparks chaos across UK hospitals as computers shut down. Sadiya Chowdhury reports

A 22-year-old British computer whiz has halted a wave of global cyber attacks. Picture: Supplied

A CLEVER British computer researcher spent $US10.69 ($15) on a successful plan to slow the global cyberattack that struck dozens of countries around the world.

Deep inside the nasty “WannaCry” internet worm was a “kill switch,” likely inserted by the cyber crooks in case something went wrong, reports the New York Post.

A screengrab taken from the website of the East and North Hertfordshire NHS alerting the public of “problems with our IT and telephone network”. Picture: AFP/Daniel Leal-Olivas

A screengrab taken from the website of the East and North Hertfordshire NHS alerting the public of “problems with our IT and telephone network”. Picture: AFP/Daniel Leal-OlivasSource:AFP

The kill switch was a website address. If the malware was directed to attack that address, its spread would slow.

The 22-year-old British researcher — who uses the Twitter handle @MalwareTechBlog — noticed the domain name was fake. It had never been registered, or set up on a server.

“I saw it wasn’t registered and thought, ‘I’ll have that,’” he told The Daily Beast.

The researcher bought the domain name on a website called NameCheap.com for $US10.69 ($15), and set it up on a server in Los Angeles.

When the malware connects infected computers to the Los Angeles server, it shuts down automatically, MalwareTech explained.

MalwareTech told the Daily Beast that whoever launched the malware will probably relaunch it to get around the Los Angeles server.

If people don’t update their Windows systems, “it’s just going to keep going,” he said.

On Friday, the malware took down thousands of computers running old versions of the Windows operating system.

The malware has been linked to an attack on the Spanish telecom giant Telefonica. Picture: AP/Paul White

The malware has been linked to an attack on the Spanish telecom giant Telefonica. Picture: AP/Paul WhiteSource:AP

“WannaCry” shuts down users’ computers, and demands a payment of $US300 ($406) in Bitcoin in exchange for the safe return of files.

Britain’s National Health Service was especially hard hit in the attack, which hit tens of thousands of computes in 100 countries.

Microsoft published a Windows update in March that would stop WannaCry. But many people and companies operate old versions of Windows that remain vulnerable to attack.

A window announcing the encryption of data including a requirement to pay appears on an electronic timetable display at the railway station in Germany. Picture: AFP/dpa/P. Goetzelt

A window announcing the encryption of data including a requirement to pay appears on an electronic timetable display at the railway station in Germany. Picture: AFP/dpa/P. GoetzeltSource:AFP

This story originally appeared in the New York Post and is reprinted with permission

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