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Meet the 22-Year-Old Who Saved Thousands from the Global Ransomware Hack

A hacker's worst nightmare.

Over the weekend, a 22-year-old who still lives with his parents became an unexpected internet hero.

Marcus Hutchins, an English digital security researcher known by the online moniker MalwareTech, found a "kill switch" in the code of WannaCry, malware that allows hackers to encrypt others' data and demand money in order to decrypt it. On Friday, the virus began quickly infecting computers around the world — and the kill switch temporarily halted its frenzied pace.

"I got back from eating lunch, saw [WannaCry] had started to hit the news… so I started looking into the malware, and I found this domain," Hutchins said of a URL he found embedded in WannaCry's code. He then registered the domain — a common practice when trying to track malware — and that unexpectedly triggered a shutdown of the WannaCry.

By the time that happened, the hack had already affected thousands of machines worldwide and compromised much of the U.K.'s health care system; WannaCry's creators also released a variant without the kill switch. But Hutchins has been credited with preventing the malware from spreading to hundreds of thousands more machines.

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