A 22-year-old just actually saved the world from a massive malware attack

Of course, we LOVE feel-good stories, and this one’s no different. A 22-year-old saved the world from a massive malware attack, reported the Guardian. He’s being called an “accidental hero,” and you’ll see why in a moment. But first — how did he stop the cyberattack?! He registered a “garbled domain name hidden in the malware,” according to the Guardian.

The cyberattack occurred on May 12th and disrupted many organizations, from FedEx to the UK’s National Health Service (NHS). To give you an example, the latter meant that not only did phones not work, but operations had to be cancelled, too (!).

How big was the cyberattack?!

There were more than 45,000 attacks of the WannaCry ransomware in 74 countries, mostly in Russia, according to security researchers with Kaspersky Lab. Messed up, right?!

But then the UK-based 22-year-old cybersecurity researcher — who chooses to remain anonymous, and we completely get it — came to the rescue.

“I was out having lunch with a friend and got back about 3 p.m. and saw an influx of news articles about the NHS and various UK organisations being hit, he told the Guardian. “I had a bit of a look into that and then I found a sample of the malware behind it, and saw that it was connecting out to a specific domain, which was not registered. So I picked it up not knowing what it did at the time.

The “accidental hero” works for Kryptos Logic, an L.A.-based threat intelligence company. Tweeting as @malwaretechblog, he found and inadvertently activated a “kill switch” in the malicious software. Darien Huss from the security firm Proofpoint helped, too.

Even though it was too late to help Europe and Asia, it gave people in the U.S. more time to patch their systems before their systems were infected, according to Proofpoint’s Ryan Kalember. In other words, they could create software updates to fix the problem.

Ever since, the accidental hero and his colleagues have been collecting the IPs and sending them off to law enforcement agencies. That way, they can notify the infected victims. Crazy fact: Some people may not even know they’ve been affected.

What is ransomware anyway?!

It’s a kind of malware that encrypts a user’s data. Then, it tells you that you have to pay in order for the data to be unlocked. As was mentioned above, the malicious software behind this attack was “WanaCrypt0r 2.0” aka WannaCry, which attacks PCs.

Though the accidental hero came to the rescue this time, he also does not believe the cyberattacks are over.

“The attackers will realise how we stopped it, they’ll change the code and then they’ll start again, he told the Guardian. “Enable windows update, update and then reboot.

Scary, right?! Let’s just hope that there are more “accidental heroes” to help combat future cyberattacks. Or, better yet, that they stop happening altogether.