A massive ransomware cyberattack created using leaked NSA code infected more than 75,000 computers in 99 countries this weekend, but the attack has been halted — for now, at least — by a 22-year-old cybersecurity researcher who lives with his parents in England.
The unnamed researcher, who wants to remain anonymous for safety purposes, was poking around the attack's code when he accidentally found its kill switch. "I was out having lunch with a friend and got back about 3 p.m. and saw an influx of news articles," he said in an interview with 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."
Registering the domain cost just $10.69. Once the ransomware detected the domain was live, it shut down. Still, the researcher notes, the hackers are unlikely to let their digital crime spree end so easily. "This is not over," he said. "The attackers will realize how we stopped it, they'll change the code and then they'll start again." Bonnie Kristian
Egyptian-American charity worker detained in Egypt for 3 years lands in the U.S. after Trump's intercession
Aya Hijazi, an Egyptian-American charity worker arrested in Cairo in May 2014, arrived in the U.S. on a government plane Thursday night along with her Egyptian husband, Mohamed Hassanein. Both of them had been detained by the Egyptian government for three years on child abuse and human trafficking charges widely dismissed as fabricated. President Trump had quietly worked for Hijazi's release, senior administration officials told The Washington Post and The New York Times, getting assurances that President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi would secure her release before Trump hosted Sisi at the White House earlier this month.
On Sunday, a court in Cairo suddenly dismissed all charges against Hijazi, Hassanein, and four aid workers for the charity the couple had set up to help Cairo street children. Former President Barack Obama's administration had pushed for the release of Hijazi, a U.S. citizen, but Obama had also barred Sisi from the White House because he had taken power in a 2013 coup, cracked down on all dissent, and was accused of other human rights abuses. Trump, on the other hand, praised Sisi during his White House visit.
White House officials call Hijazi's release a triumph of Trump's discreet, behind-the-scenes diplomacy, and a senior administration official told The Washington Post there was no quid pro quo offered for the acquittals. Hijazi and her husband are expected to meet with Trump, his daughter Ivanka, and son-in-law Jared Kushner at the White House on Friday. Peter Weber
The latest Labor Department report released Thursday revealed U.S. jobless claims fell to nearly their lowest level since 1973. In the week of Sept. 25 to Oct. 1, 249,000 Americans filed for unemployment benefits for the first time, down 5,000 from the previous week. Economists polled by Reuters had forecast the number would rise to 257,000.
Only once in the last four decades have there been fewer filings; in April of this year, jobless claims hit 248,000, the lowest mark since 1973. Thursday's report marked the 83rd consecutive week that first-time jobless claims have remained below 300,000, which, Reuters reported, "is seen as indicative of a strong labor market."
In more good news, Thursday's report also revealed that continued jobless claims are dropping off. In the week that ended Sept. 24, continued claims fell 6,000 from the previous week to 2.06 million, the lowest level since 2000.
The promising unemployment numbers arrived just a day ahead of the September jobs report, due out Friday. The economists polled by Reuters predicted the unemployment rate would hold steady; as Reuters explained, "job growth has been slowing, but is still well above the threshold needed to absorb new entrants into the labor market." Becca Stanek
The Colorado theater where 12 were murdered and 70 injured in a shooting four years ago has decided to drop its request for $700,000 in legal costs following the victims' unsuccessful lawsuit, The Denver Post reports.
Dozens of Aurora movie theater victims had attempted to sue the theater's parent company, Cinemark, for security flaws, but the court ruled in favor of Cinemark, claiming it could not have foreseen the shooting. Colorado law would have made the victims behind the failed lawsuit responsible for the theater's legal fees.
Cinemark's lawyers said that the goal "has always been to resolve this matter fully and completely without an award of costs of any kind to any party." Cinemark withdrew its bill of costs on Tuesday, although two victims of the shooting who were paralyzed are still fighting in federal court; Cinemark will decide by Sept. 20 if it wants them to pay legal costs.
"The case can now be deemed completely over," wrote Cinemark's attorneys Tuesday. Jeva Lange
Nearly three months after the deadly shooting at Orlando's Pulse nightclub, the last hospitalized survivor has been discharged.
Orlando Health announced the news Tuesday on Twitter. The patient had been at Orlando Regional Medical Center since the June 12 shooting, which left 49 people dead. No further details were shared about the survivor, but Orlando Health did say that the medical center performed a total of 76 surgeries on 35 shooting victims and it "continues to stand in support of our community." Catherine Garcia
After four years of negotiations, the Colombian government and the FARC rebel group announced Wednesday in Cuba they have reached an agreement to end their 52-year armed conflict.
More than 220,000 Colombians died during the fighting, and almost seven million had to leave their homes. U.S. envoy to the peace talks Bernard Aronson called it "the final chapter of the Cold War in the hemisphere," while Colombia's lead negotiator, Humberto de la Calle, declared that "the war is over." While an agreement has been made, voters in Colombia still have to ratify the accord, and are expected to head to the polls in October. President Juan Manuel Santos is campaigning for the deal's approval, while his rival, former president Alvaro Uribe, wants it to fail, saying it goes too easy on FARC leaders.
If approved, the deal would become law, and FARC would start demobilizing 7,000 fighters and would have 180 days to fully disarm. The conflict between the government and FARC rebels is the longest-running in the Americas, but the government still has to worry about another group, the 1,500 member National Liberation Army, which is hoping to lure disillusioned FARC rebels to its ranks. Catherine Garcia
In 2003, 42 percent of Bangladeshis defecated outside. Today, that figure has shrunk to less than 1 percent. The difference stems from rising incomes plus a 13-year campaign in the South Asian nation to increase the availability of real toilets while educating Bangladeshis about the health and security dangers of doing their business outside.
"Once it was our habit to go to the fields or jungles. Now, it is shameful to us," said Begum, a woman who lives in a farming village near the capital of Bangladesh. "Even our children do not defecate openly anymore. We do not need to ask them; they do it on their own." Since installing a toilet in her house, Begum reports her children have been healthier, avoiding waterborne infections.
And children played a key role in the educational campaign, too. They were given whistles to blow if they saw someone defecating outdoors and were encouraged to yell slogans like "Defecating in the open is the enemy of the people" and "No one will marry your daughter if you do not have a toilet at home." Bonnie Kristian
Researchers at Stanford University uncovered some good news deep underneath California: groundwater in aquifers 1,000 to 3,000 feet underground.
With this discovery, the team found that the state has three times more groundwater than earlier estimated, the Los Angeles Times reports. "It's not often that you find a 'water windfall,' but we just did," study co-author Robert Jackson told Stanford News Service.
Because the water source is so much deeper than traditional aquifers, it would likely cost a lot of money to get to it and require special engineering. The researchers also said that the quality of the water is questionable, and desalination might be necessary. The study was published Monday in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Catherine Garcia