In May of 2017, Marcus Hutchins saved the internet. A vicious ransomware attack known as WannaCry had infected computer systems across dozens of countries. It was the worst cyberattack in history at the time, and it seemed unstoppable. But Hutchins, a 23-year-old-hacker in Ilfracombe, England, discovered a secret kill switch that stopped the malware from propagating. Hutchins became a celebrity overnight, with the hacker community and the media hailing him as a hero. But all of the newfound attention was not good for him. Three months after defeating the malware, Marcus was arrested by the FBI—not for his involvement in WannaCry, but for a string of past illegal activities that he had kept secret.

This week on Gadget Lab, WIRED senior writer Andy Greenberg joins us to talk about Hutchins’ remarkable story. In the second half of the show, Andy gives us an update on the efforts to set up a contact tracing system to monitor the spread of the coronavirus.

Show Notes

Read Andy’s cover story about the hacker who saved the internet here. His story about contact tracing in India is here. Also check out Andy’s book, Sandworm. Read more about the WannaCry ransomware attack here. Follow all of WIRED’s cybersecurity coverage here.

Recommendations

Andy recommends the book The Mastermind by Evan Ratliff. Lauren recommends NPR’s Planet Money podcast. Mike recommends The New York Times Magazine story “What Happened to Val Kilmer? He’s Just Starting to Figure It Out.”

Andy Greenberg can be found on Twitter @a_greenberg. Lauren Goode is @LaurenGoode. Michael Calore is @snackfight. Bling the main hotline at @GadgetLab. The show is produced by Boone Ashworth (@booneashworth). Our executive producer is Alex Kapelman (@alexkapelman). Our theme music is by Solar Keys.

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How to Listen

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