Young techie finds 'kill switch' for cyberattack

2017-05-13 19:59


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London - A UK report says a young cyber security researcher has been credited with helping to halt the spread of the global ransomware cyber-attack by accidentally activating a so-called "kill switch" in the malicious software.

The Guardian newspaper reported that the 22-year-old Britain-based researcher, identified online only as MalwareTech, found that the software's spread could be stopped by registering a garbled domain name.

The paper quoted the researcher as saying: "This is not over. The attackers will realise how we stooped it, they'll change the code and then they'll start again."

He urged Windows users to update their systems and reboot.

The worldwide cyberxtortion attack has been called "unprecedented" by Europol, which is investigating who is behind it.

The attack has prompted Microsoft to take the unusual step of making security fixes available for older Windows system. Before this, Microsoft had made fixes for older systems, such as 2001's Windows XP, available only to mostly larger organisations that pay extra for extended support. But millions of individuals and smaller businesses still had such systems.

Microsoft says now it will make the fixes free for everyone.

The attack was based on a Windows vulnerability that was purportedly identified by the US National Security Agency and was later leaked to the internet.

Microsoft released fixes for the vulnerability in March, but computers that didn't run the update were subject to the ransom attack. Once inside an organisation's network, the malware behind the attack spread rapidly using this vulnerability.

Among the countries that reported major problems were Slovenia, which said French car manufacturer Renault's assembly plant in Slovenia halted production after it was targeted in the global cyber-attack.

The head of Slovenia's cyber emergency team, Gorazd Bozic, says seven individuals have also been targeted but no state institutions.

And in France Renault's factory at Sandouville, in the northwest of the country, was one of the sites affected.

The European Union's police agency, Europol, said earlier it was working with countries hit by the global ransomware cyber-attack to rein in the threat.

Europol's European Cybercrime Centre, known as EC3, says its Joint Cybercrime Action Taskforce, made up of experts in high-tech crime, "is specially designed to assist in such investigations and will play an important role in supporting the investigation".

The attack, which locked up computers and held users' files for ransom, was believed the biggest of its kind ever recorded.

Germany's national railway said it was among the organisations affected by the global attack, but there had been no impact on train services.

The head of Turkey's Information and Communication Technologies Authority or BTK said the nation was among those affected by the ransomware attack. Omer Fatih Sayan said the country's cyber security centre was continuing operations against the malicious software.

Britain's National Cyber Security Centre said earlier teams were working "round the clock" to restore hospital computer systems after the global attack that hit dozens of countries.  It forced British hospitals to cancel and delay treatment for patients.

Several cyber security firms said they had identified the malicious software behind the attack, which apparently hit Russia the hardest.

British Home Secretary Amber Rudd said on Saturday that 45 public health organisations were hit, but she stressed that no patient data had been stolen.

Read more on:    cyber attack

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