German IT specialist saves Internet from major attack

BERLIN – Andres Freund, a German software developer at Microsoft in the U.S., is currently celebrated as a hero worldwide. His attention and expertise saved the Internet from a dangerous attack that could have harmed millions of users.

The discovery

During routine maintenance, Andres encountered a “backdoor” in  the Linux operating system. This backdoor apparently could have triggered a gigantic cyberattack. Experts agree that the attack would have caused great damage worldwide.

The hero

Andres Freund began his career in 2010 at Programmfabrik GmbH in Berlin and joined Microsoft in the USA more than five years ago. On the flight back from visiting his parents in Germany, he noticed minor errors while looking through test protocols. A login suddenly required more computing power – a performance drop of just 500 milliseconds.

The discovery of the malicious code

Back in America, the IT specialist analyzed the source code more closely and noticed intentional changes. A so-called malicious code had been injected into the latest versions of “xz-utils”. This malicious code could have carried out unwanted, malicious actions on millions of Linux computers worldwide. The manipulated software was to be sent to all Linux computers with the next update.

The New York Times compares Andres to a bakery worker who smells freshly baked bread and senses something is wrong. In this case, someone had tampered with the entire world’s yeast supply.

Thanks and recognition

The German IT expert saved the Internet, thereby protecting millions of users’ data. His attention and expertise made him a hero. The IT community is celebrating him for his crucial role in preventing this large-scale attack. (zai)