The WannaCry ransomware that struck thousands of Windows systems across the globe could have been worse had it not been stopped by a 22-year-old cyber hero who accidentally activated a kill switch. Known as MalwareTech in the cybersecurity community, the young British researcher has finally revealed his real identity.
Meet Marcus Hutchins, a curly-haired young man who hails from Ilfracombe, a seaside resort on the North Devon coast in Southern England. A keen surfer and pizza lover, Hutchins works with LA-based cybersecurity firm Kryptos Logic and is reluctant to take the title of a hero.
"I'm definitely not a hero," he told the Associated Press. "I'm just someone doing my bit to stop botnets."
Hutchins, who was known as MalwareTech, told IBTimes UK earlier that he accidentally stumbled across the kill switch while analysing a sample of the malicious code and noticed it was linked to an unregistered web address. This in turn allowed the kill switch to take effect, thus stopping the spread of the ransomware attacks.
"Within a few moments of Marcus taking over the domain, we were able to validate that there was indeed a kill switch. It was a very exciting moment. This is something that Marcus validated himself," said Salim Neino, CEO of Kryptos Logic, and Hutchin's employer.
After news of his heroic deed spread, many tabloids started making random assumptions as to who MalwareTech could be. Some even reached a teenager's house thinking that she was the anonymous saviour. It was only after Hutchins requested the media to stop harassing her did they realise that it was not her. People even created fake accounts under the MalwareTech brand to try and establish themselves as the founder of the kill switch.
Hutchins knew that revealing his identity could lead cyber criminals to attack him anytime and it should not be difficult for them to get details of where he and his family live. He, however, finally agreed to reveal his identity even after being reluctant as he wanted all the speculation to stop.
"I felt like I should agree to one interview," he told AP despite being fame-averse, so much so that he initially misspelled his last name.
His mother Janet, a nurse, was relieved, though. The proud mother was happy that the veil of anonymity was finally lifted.
"I wanted to scream, but I couldn't," she said.
People hailed him as a hero and some went ahead and offered him generous rewards for this feat. HackerOne, a group that rewards "ethical hackers" for finding software flaws, gave him a $10,000 bounty for the kill switch which he has decided to donate to charities. The pizza lover who can eat up to three full ones on a day's lunch has also been offered a full year's supply of free pizzas from JustEat UK.
Instead of having a traditional office setup, and like most ethical hackers and security experts, Hutchins works from his bedroom on a sophisticated computer with three enormous screens. His company has offered him a trip to LA for a while, but he is not planning to leave home anytime soon.
Hutchins says he is willingly helping out the National Cyber Security Centre in Britain to tackle such threats and is part of a global community that constantly watches out for such attacks. He says he loves his job and has no plans to quit it as of now.