Marcus Hutchins, 22, from Ilfracombe, found a way to stop the virus that brought worldwide chaos on Friday

Marcus has been inundated with national media attention. Picture: AP/Frank AugsteinMarcus has been inundated with national media attention. Picture: AP/Frank Augstein

An Ilfracombe computer expert has been credited with slowing the cyber attack that brought chaos worldwide.

Marcus Hutchins, 22, was hailed an ‘accidental hero’ after discovering the ‘kill switch’ that brought the WannaCry virus to a halt.

The ‘ransomware’ virus hit NHS systems across the UK and computers around the world, leaving users faced with a blocked screen and a demand for a ‘ransom’ otherwise their files would be rendered unusable.

Marcus, who works for Los Angeles-based Kryptos Logic but is from Ilfracombe, spent the weekend fighting against the virus that meant computer systems were able to return to relative normality.

He discovered that by registering a web domain it effectively halted the spread of the virus.

On his Twitter page under the name Malware Tech he said: “I will confess that I was unaware registering the domain would stop the malware until after I registered it, so initially it was accidental.”

But he went on to explain in his online blog that this was not done on a whim: “My job is to look for ways we can track and potentially stop botnets (and other kinds of malware),” he said.

He was helped to stop the virus by others in the industry, including researcher Darien Huss.

Since the attack his actions have prompted worldwide recognition and coverage across national newspapers and television.

Marcus tweeted on Monday that he had ‘three days with nearly no sleep’ and had been subjected to heavy national media attention.

Some news sources had reported he feared retribution for his efforts, but he tweeted: “For the record I don’t ‘fear for my safety’, I’m just unhappy with trying to help clear up Friday’s mess with the doorbell going constantly.”

Large swathes of the NHS were hit by the cyber attack on Friday, which hit 200,000 victims in 150 countries around the world.

Marcus thanked several individuals and organisations for their help, including the National Cyber Security Centre UK, the FBI and Microsoft.

In North Devon the attack did not have the same effect. A spokesman for Northern Devon Healthcare Trust said: “At this time, our systems are running normally.

“We have safeguards in place to continuously protect hospital computer systems from cyber-attacks and we have asked our staff to remain vigilant in light of national reports.”