While the term hacker has innocent enough origins – it was first coined by M.I.T. undergrads as a name for the “undistinguished work” they conducted tooling around, mostly for fun, on the early internet– it’s now got a dark, mysterious connotation with strong links to cybercrime and the faceless, untraceable masses lurking in the dark corners of the Web.
One of the most nefarious kinds of hacking activities is ransomware, which, like it sounds, holds the infected domain or IP hostage until money is transferred over to the hackers. Just a few weeks ago on May 12, one of the biggest ransomware attacks to date began infecting computers around the world, shutting down networks at hospitals, major corporations and government offices in more than 150 different companies.
What’s unique about this attack – dubbed WannaCry – is that rather than targeting a specific, well-funded target, the hackers behind it were looking to hold seemingly the whole world to ransom.
However, a 22-year-old named Marcus Hutchins from North Devon Coast in the United Kingdom – a warrior on the side of fighting “bad” hackers – accidentally found the kill switch that eventually put the ransomware spread on halt. He discovered a long, nonsensical web address within the malware’s code that automatically pauses the spread once it crosses the malware’s path.
While Hutchins wasn’t expecting he’d be deemed a hero for his actions – or that they’d definitely lead to stopping the attack that had put large swaths of the U.K.’s hospital network on the fritz – he certainly bought anti-malware experts a great deal of time to figure out what other measures need to be taken to completely stop the spread of WannaCry.
That’s right – even though the story is no longer at the top of the news cycle, the virus itself has not been completely contained. Rather, Hutchins has reported as recently as last week that traffic on the domain is picking up. Based on the activity he’s observed, it’s believed that the hackers are trying to find a workaround to his kill switch by overwhelming the domain name with a DDoS attack.
WannaCry is still out there and available for copycats to program mimicked ransomware in an attempt to basically hold the world hostage. But what’s most troubling is that professional scammers have the benefit of hindsight, and with the mistakes that originally foiled the attack in clear view, they may be able to troubleshoot some of the original scammer’s follies.
In an age where privacy is harder to come by than ever and your personal or professional data can be used against you for ransom, it’s best to utilize a secure storage and connectivity device like LINK to keep all of your data in a central location that you control access to. Link enables users to keep their world at hand and share content only with those who they want to share their world with.