THE COMPUTER wizard who saved the NHS from the ransomware virus that wreaked havoc across the globe has been named as a 22-year-old surfer from Devon.
Self-taught tech genius Marcus Hutchins has been hailed an “accidental hero” after he managed to save the NHS from hackers that seized computers on Friday.
He stopped the unprecedented virus in its tracks in a matter of hours by triggering a “kill switch”.
By this point, it had already brought chaos to the NHS, as well as a number of banks, factories and schools, by demanding $300 in online currency Bitcoin to unlock infected computers.
Despite his good turn, Hutchins wasn’t always so well behaved, and was once expelled from school for hacking.
He was kicked out of his school in Ilfracombe, Devon, for breaching its computer security controls.
Last night Marcus, who still lives with his parents, said: “IT lessons are boring and you want to go on games so we used to try to bypass those and that’s what got me interested in security.”
But the young cyber expert, who works at a “private intel threat firm”, is terrified of hackers’ revenge attacks following his newfound fame.
He is believed to have come up with a solution to the WannaCry ransomware attack from his small bedroom at his parents’ home in Devon.
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He’s now working with the government’s National Cyber Security Centre to help prevent a new wave of attacks today, MailOnline reported.
He also said: “In future someone might want to retaliate – they could find my identity within seconds.
“If they know where I live, they could really do anything.”
The Telegraph has unearthed images of the 22-year-old’s room, which is packed with old takeaway pizza boxes, video games and computer screens.
Other snaps depict Hutchins – who did not attend university – in Las Vegas for DEFCON, the world’s largest annual convention for internet hackers.
In an interview with the publication, one of the IT expert’s friends said the surfer “was just doing his job” when he managed to stop the virus in its tracks.
Kurtis Baron, founder of Fidus Information Security, added: “He is a really nice friend and also a business colleague.
“It is not a job to him, more a passion that he happens to get paid for.”
Hutchins, who goes by the name Malware Tech online, came to the rescue after realising the virus could be stopped by registering an £8.29 website domain name.
The 22-year-old, who regularly posts on social media about his love for surfing, pizza and Pokemon, has warned that a Chinese hacker could upgrade the virus to get rid of the kill switch.
He said he believes the program could have a “backdoor”, meaning hackers would easily be able to inject a new strain of the virus.
He told the Mail: “Mostly what I do is tech but I also do surfing and a bit of travelling. I tend to go places for work and then I take a couple of days to go to the seaside.
“I work as much as I want to work, essentially. I’m only a fan of pizza because I can ring and it turns up, whereas if I cook something I have to spend 20 minutes cooking.”
He went on to warn that there was a possibility someone could “re-hack” the NHS systems.
He said: “Assuming the backdoor wasn’t killed, any computer that was infected previously would then be re-infectable.
“They could essentially scan the internet for the backdoor and access it and drop the ransomware.”
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In order to keep the virus at bay, Hutchins said users would need to disconnect their computers from the internet before turning them on again, and then check them for the backdoor.
The process is a difficult one, the 22-year-old admitted, as it requires custom tools to scan and remove the backdoor.
He is in the process of tracking the hackers with the help of a team of analysts, but warned there is a “good chance” he might not be able to stop the next attack.
Hutchins’ warnings have been echoed by computer security experts, who also believe the “kill switch” solution can only be temporary.
Speaking to Sky News, Steven Wilson, Head of Europol’s European Cybercrime Centre, said hackers could just as easily start a new virus that is capable of targeting millions of computers.
Urging IT departments to check their computer systems as soon as possible, he added: “It’s not a massively sophisticated attack.
“What is new is the use of a worm to propagate through systems.
“It is beyond anything we have seen before.”
Sinister hackers the Shadow Brokers are believed to have used a spy weapon stolen from the US National Security Agency (NSA) to spread the ransomware bug known as WannaCry.
Hundreds of operations were cancelled and patients turned away from A&E after the unprecedented global cyber attack wreaked havoc in over 150 countries worldwide.
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