Security researcher creates ‘vaccine’ against ransomware attack

Petya ransomware

Avaccination for the global cyber attack that infected thousands of machines in dozens of countries has been discovered by an American security researcher.

The simple antidote to the Petya ransomware, which stops computers from being able to launch and demands a $300 (£234) payment, uses an empty folder to block the virus from working.

It could prevent further companies from falling victim to the attack that hit the Ukrainian National Bank, advertising giant WPP and US law firm DLA Piper. In total the incident affected 12,500 machines in 64 countries, according to Microsoft.

The fix is reminiscent of the “kill switch” for the WannaCry attack earlier this year that stopped the rapidly spreading virus after it had already infected more than 200,000 machines. But it can’t stop the Petya ransomware from spreading to more computers.

About | Ransomware

What is ransomware?Malicious software that locks a device, such as a computer, tablet or smartphone and then demands a ransom to unlock it

Where did ransomware originate?The first documented case appeared in 2005 in the United States, but quickly spread around the world

How does it affect a computer?The software is normally contained within an attachment to an email that masquerades as something innocent. Once opened it encrypts the hard drive, making it impossible to access or retrieve anything stored on there – such as photographs, documents or music

How can you protect yourself?Anti-virus software can protect your machine, although cybercriminals are constantly working on new ways to override such protection

How much are victims expected to pay?The ransom demanded varies. Victims of a 2014 attack in the UK were charged £500. However, there’s no guarantee that paying will get your data back

Unlike the WannaCry kill switch, discovered by 22-year-old self-taught Marcus Hutchins, the Petya antidote must be manually downloaded onto computers ahead of their being affected.

Amit Serper, the security researcher from Boston who discovered the solution, warned that it is probably a “temporary fix” rather than a tool to stop the problem completely.

Serper found the solution to the problem working with a UK-based cyber expert who goes by the name of Hacker Fantastic. Serper was on holiday with his family in Israel when the problem started.

When the Petya ransomware infects a machine it searches for a folder called “perfc.dll”. If it can’t find the folder it takes hold of the computer, locking files and part of the hard drive. In the event that it finds the file the ransomware is not able to work.

Following his discovery, Serper was inundated with messages of praise and some job offers. He eventually turned off notifications for people he doesn’t follow on Twitter and said he didn’t want a new job.

“I’m very happy with working for Cyber Reason, please stop emailing me. Also, appreciate the praises but let’s not go crazy. I’m not that good,” said Serper.

In a follow-up tweet he added: “Thanks for all the kind words. This is a temporary fix, let’s focus on patching, less on thanking me. Thanks again, I’m humbled.”

A kill switch for Petya appeared to be less pressing than it was for WannaCry as the former doesn’t spread in the same rapid way.

“There is low risk of new infections more than one hour after the attack,” Hutchins said.

Petya cyber attack: Ransomware spreads across Europe


The attack could have infected computers in the first instance through a flaw in accounting software, according to Cisco.

It is not clear who is behind the attack, which appeared to inflict most damage in Ukraine, but research indicates it could have been a nation state assault.

“Based on initial analysis by CyberArk Labs, what we know now is that NotPetya is different from WannaCry in that it appears to be sparing endpoints that use a US English-only keyboard. This seemingly self-imposed restriction has been seen in nation state attacks,” said

Companies in more than a dozen countries were affected by the ransomware, including the UK, US, Ukraine, Russia, Italy, Germany, France, Japan and China.

The first incident appeared in Kiev before spreading across Ukraine and Russia. At the time of writing there hadn’t been any new instances of the infection but computer systems remained crippled.


Army to buy new software to aid fight against hackers

Representative imageRepresentative image
PUNE: The Army Cyber Group (ACG), responsible for securing the Indian Army’s vast digital infrastructure, is set to purchase the latest software which will help detect defects within the computer network.

A senior army officer, who is aware of the development, told TOI the move will test cyber health of networks across the Army’s command headquarters and subordinate units right down to battalion level.

“Considering the level of emerging cyber threats, it is important to verify if the current network is strong enough to sustain these threats. Top army authorities have decided to carry out network-to-network testing across army establishments and the ACG has already initiated the process of acquiring new software tools. A tender for these acquisitions was floated recently ,” the officer added.

Colonel Aman Anand, a spokesperson at the Army Headquarters in New Delhi, told TOI over phone: ” As far as army networks are concerned, they are strictly air-gapped from the outside world. Networks are also secured using intrusion-prevention and detection systems. All formations’ headquarters and local area networks (LANs) have similar systems in place.”

When asked about measures being implemented following reports of ransomware attacks worldwide, Col Anand said the Army’s exposure to such strikes was “negligible”. ” A majority of our units have secured LANs,” he said.

According to sources within the Army , enemy hackers have been using various tactics to penetrate the digital network.Strategies include sending decoy emails that inject malware into a computer which can then lead to massive data theft. “To counter such threats, a testing of the network is crucial and loopholes can be brought out. Tests will also determine the capability of the network its ability to resist malware or similar external factors,” sources said.

Early May , suspected hackers had attempted to gain access into the Indian Army’s network by trying to inject data-stealing malware disguised as a message about “foreign postings in Sri Lanka”, the sources added.


How to Create WordPress MySQL Databases on cPanel

Filing room

This article is part of a series created in partnership with SiteGround. Thank you for supporting the partners who make SitePoint possible.

WordPress’ success owes much to its quick and simple five-minute installation procedure. Yet the MySQL database still causes confusion for many.

This tutorial describes how to create a database using cPanel, a popular platform management utility offered by many web hosts. We’ll also discuss how to use this database during a WordPress installation. The techniques can be used by any web application which requires MySQL.

Let’s start with the basics and terminology…

What is a Database?

A database is a collection of organized data. That’s it. WordPress stores all its page, post, category and user data in a database.

MySQL is a database management system (DBMS). It is software which allows you to create, update, read and delete data within a database. A single MySQL installation can manage any number of self-contained databases. You could have one for WordPress, another for Magento, and others for Drupal or whatever you need.

There are plenty of alternatives but MySQL became popular for several reasons:

  • it is free, open source software. It is now owned by Oracle but there are open MySQL-compatible options such as MariaDB.
  • it became synonymous with PHP – the web’s most-used language/runtime which powers WordPress. Both PHP and MySQL appeared in the mid-1990s when web development was in its infancy.
  • it adopts Structured Query Language (SQL) – a (fairly) standard language for creating data structures and data.
  • it is fast, simple to install and has many third-party development tools.

How do Applications Access a Database?

Applications such as WordPress access their data via a database connection. In the case of MySQL, WordPress’ PHP code can only establish a connection when it knows:

  • the address where MySQL is installed
  • the name of the database it needs to access
  • a user ID and password required to access that database

A database “user” account must be defined for WordPress use. It can have a very strong password and set appropriate database permissions.

How is Data Stored?

MySQL and other SQL databases store data in relational tables.

For example, you may have a set of article posts. Each post will have unique data, such as the title and body text. It will also have data used in other posts, such as the category and author details. Rather than repeat the same data again and again, we create separate tables:

  • an author table containing an ID, the author’s name and other details
  • category table containing an ID and the category name
  • post table containing the article title and body text. It would point to the author and category by referencing the associated ID number.

SQL databases implement safeguards to guarantee data integrity. You should not be able to reference an author ID which does not exist or delete a category used by one or more articles.

These table definitions and rules form a database schema. A set of SQL commands execute during WordPress installation to create this schema. Only then are the tables ready to store data.

How to Create a Database

Web hosts using cPanel provide a web address (such as, and a user ID and password to gain access. Keep these details safe. Do not confuse them with the database or WordPress user credentials!

If you’re looking for a host that supports cPanel, try SiteGround, our web host of choice. All plans support cPanel, and they’ve re-skinned the dashboard to organize everything in a more friendly way.


You view may look a little different but locate the DATABASES section or enter “MySQL” in the search box.

Click the MySQL Database Wizard and follow the steps:

Step 1: Choose a Database Name

Your database requires a name:

create a database

The name may have a prefix applied, such as mysite_. Enter an appropriate name such as blog or wordpress and hit Next Step.

Step 2: Create a Database User

You must now define the MySQL user account which WordPress uses to access your database:

create database user

Note the user name may also have the same prefix applied (mysite_). In this screenshot, our user ID is mysite_blogDBuser.

cPanel will ensure you enter a strong password. The password can be complex; you will use it only once during WordPress installation. I recommend the random Password Generator:

password generator

Make sure you copy the user ID and password to a text file or another safe place before hitting Create User.

Step 3: Set the Database User Privileges

The user created above requires full access to the database during WordPress installation. It runs scripts to create tables and populate them with the initial data.

Check ALL PRIVLEGES then hit Next Step:

set database user privileges

cPanel will confirm creation of the MySQL database and user.

enter image description here

The MySQL Databases Panel

You can use the MySQL Databases panel instead of the wizard. It still allows you to create a database and user, but you then add that user to the database.

It also provides facilities to update, repair and delete databases and users.

How to Install WordPress

Your cPanel may provide WordPress and other application installers. It may not be necessary to follow the steps above because the script creates a database for you.

If manual installation is necessary or preferred, download WordPress and extract the files. You may be able to do this on your server via SSH but FTP/SFTP is also supported.

Open a browser and navigate to the domain/path where you copied WordPress, (i.e. This starts the installation:

install WordPress

You must enter:

  • the MySQL Database Name created in step 1
  • the MySQL database Username created in step 2
  • the MySQL database user’s Password created in step 2
  • the Database Host. This is the address of the server where MySQL runs. It will often be localhost or because MySQL is running on the same server where your site is hosted. Your host will advise you if this is different.

The Table Prefix adds a short string to the start of all table names. Change it when:

  1. You want to install many copies of WordPress which all point to the same database, and/or
  2. You want to make your installation a little more secure by making table names less obvious.

Hit Submit and WordPress will verify your credentials before continuing installation.

Create a WordPress User

WordPress prompts for the ID, password and email address of a WordPress administrator. This is someone responsible for managing WordPress. It is different to the MySQL database and cPanel credentials!

enter image description here

Hit Install WordPress and the dashboard will appear within a few seconds.

Bonus Security Step

We granted full permission to the database user for WordPress installation. You can downgrade these privileges after installation to improve security.

The following rights should be adequate:


Some plug-ins may need extra rights so enable ALL PRIVILEGES if you encounter problems.



There’s no avoiding it: High Sierra, the next major release of macOS, is going to feel like a somewhat boring update to most people. It’s full of foundational refinements and new technologies that will prepare your Mac for very cool things that are coming over the next few years. There’s a whole new file system underneath everything! But feature-wise, High Sierra lacks any new apps or consumer-facing changes that will make it all that exciting for Mac users.

If you’re a photographer, you’ll certainly appreciate the revamped Photos app and its more powerful editing tools. Mail, Safari, Notes, Spotlight, and Siri are all slightly better on High Sierra, too. But even Apple’s other refinement-focused macOS releases — such as El Capitan or Mountain Lion or Snow Leopard — contained more new stuff. This time, the most important changes are all happening under the hood. And even if you’re unlikely to notice all of them, some are pretty monumental for the operating system’s future. You can install the public beta for High Sierra as of today.



Photos is the app that’s received the most attention from Apple in macOS High Sierra, and the payoff for that work is significant. Over the last couple years, Photos has focused largely on simplifying the hassle of managing your photo library and syncing your pictures across devices through the cloud. But with High Sierra, it’s once again starting to feel like a capable, robust piece of editing software. The sidebar is now persistent and displays your library, Memories, Live Photos, and albums. You can view your photos based on media type (burst shots, selfies, panoramas, slow-mo, etc.), and GIFs are finally supported, too.

The edit view has been totally reworked and now offers a wider selection of tools including curves (for finer adjustments) and selective color, which lets you change the color of a specific thing in your shot without affecting the entire image. A new “Compare” button in the upper left corner makes it easy to reference the before and after of each adjustment you make to be sure you’re not ruining everything. And similar to iOS 11, the app’s built-in filters have gotten more natural and subtle.

Plus, if Photos still falls short for your image processing needs, Apple now lets you kick an image out to your editor of choice — Photoshop, Pixelmator, etc. — and saves any edits you make non-destructively. That way, you’re not left with multiple copies of the same photo on your Mac, and your edits sync across your devices just as they would if you’d been working in Photos the whole time.

High Sierra gives Photos the same, new Live Photos tricks as iOS 11 including the loop, bounce, and long exposure effects. Apple is also ramping up its continued war with Google Photos by making the Memories feature smarter; Photos will now create memories involving pets, babies, birthdays, sporting events, outdoor activities, weddings, and anniversaries. And Photos supports the new file formats meant to save space when you’re shooting images and video on a device running iOS 11. To round things out, you can now publish books (and even websites) with third-party companies like Shutterfly and Wix.


Apple has declared war against annoying auto-playing videos and creepy ad tracking across the websites you visit. In High Sierra, the company has ramped up Safari’s capabilities to shield you against both. And these auto-playing defenses are incrediblyeffective. You can set preferences for individual websites or a blanket rule that bans all autoplay, only stops content with sound, or lets everything play.

And it works! I’ve been unable to find any site that can successfully break through Safari’s new safeguards against unexpected media playback. For most, I’ve had to manually hit the play button or at least take some action. In other instances, loading animations made clear that sites were trying to auto-play something, but they still failed. This feature alone might make many give Safari another try as their primary Mac browser. Apple insists it’s way faster than Chrome, remember.

Another new, great Safari feature is intelligent tracking prevention. Apple’s browser will now use machine learning to identify the advertisers that track you around the web and remove the cross-site data that’s responsible for your Amazon browsing and other brief shopping sessions following you for days and weeks on end. You’ll know it’s working when ads start seeming less creepy and directly relevant to that thing you just searched for. Advertisers will no doubt try to circumvent this pro-consumer feature, setting up a game of cat and mouse in future updates to macOS and Safari.

Safari is also adding more granular controls over content blockers and privacy controls for your Mac’s camera, location, microphone, and notifications. And you can now set the Reader mode, which strips pages of everything but article content, as the default whenever it’s available.


Right off the bat, the updated Mail app should save some space on your Mac’s hard drive. Once you upgrade to High Sierra, Mail will compress all of your messages that it stores. Apple says this could result in Mail taking up to 35 percent less space compared to whatever amount of room it’s eating up on your computer right now.

Mail also gets one significant new feature that’ll come into play when you search through your inbox for that one important email: Top Hits. The idea here is to make search much more accurate by factoring in how often (and recently) you’ve read a message and whether the sender is a favorite contact or someone you’ve set as a VIP in Mail preferences. It also takes into account how frequently someone emails you and your rate of actually replying. Apple says that Top Hits will get more relevant and helpful the more you use it and search in the Mail app.


Notes can now be pinned, so you can keep the important ones at the top of your list. Tables can be added to notes, too. I had to think long and hard about what I’d need a table for when coming up with the fake travel schedule below, but I’m sure there are some of you who’ll find this small thing very useful. And now when you search for a word in notes, it’ll be highlighted so you can easily located it in results.


With High Sierra, Siri is getting the same, more natural voices that are also coming to iOS 11. The assistant is also better at music-related requests. Aside from the straightforward play this song by this artist stuff, you can ask Siri to “play some music” for a personalized playlist or ask her to play something sad or genre-specific.


Spotlight can now track flight status, if that’s a thing you want to do. It’ll show you whether a flight is on time, its path, duration, and the key departure / arrival terminal info you need. You can get this from Google, of course, but if you’re a big Spotlight user, maybe this is just ever so slightly quicker.


Messages in iCloud: Just like iOS 11, High Sierra now offers to store your iMessage history in the cloud, making it easier to retrieve all those conversations whenever you set up a new device. Everything is still end-to-end encrypted to ensure privacy.

FaceTime Live Photos: When you’re on a FaceTime call with someone, you can capture a Live Photo that uses the other person’s camera and mic on their Mac or iOS device for greater quality. Both parties on the FaceTime call are notified whenever a Live Photo is taken.

Universal Clipboard between Macs: You can copy something on one Mac running High Sierra and paste it onto a nearby Mac that’s also signed into your account. Universal Clipboard is already a convenient feature between macOS and iOS, and now it works across Macs.

Improved family sharing and shared iCloud storage: Starting with High Sierra, Apple now lets you set up different aspects of family sharing (Apple Music, shared purchases, etc.) as you need them. Also, everyone can take from the same storage plan. 200GB of iCloud storage is $2.99 per month, or you can jump up to 2TB — hopefully enough to cover everyone — for $9.99 a month.

New Touch Bar tricks: The tiny strip of a display on MacBook Pros is getting ever-so-slightly more useful in High Sierra. You can double tap the volume button to mute your Mac’s audio. Swiping to adjust display brightness and system volume is faster since you don’t have to bring up sliders first. And there are new buttons for Night Shift and AirPlay.

MacBook Pro with Touch BarPhoto by James Bareham / The Verge

Better iCloud file sharing: Files saved to iCloud Drive can be shared with other people for collaborative work. Everyone sees the same document and will always get the latest version with any edits and changes. “Compatible” third-party apps can also work on iCloud Drive files and the document is still kept up to date. And now, you can share directly with people from the share sheet.



Apple is making some radical changes to the underpinnings of your Mac. High Sierra will mark the changeover to the company’s own, modern Apple File System. iOS users made this transition back in March, and now the Mac’s time has come. APFS is optimized for the flash / SSD storage in most new Mac computers today. It’s faster, more efficient, and advances Apple’s focus on encryption and security. Here are a few examples of the noticeable benefits of APFS:

  • Saved space: As with iOS 10.3, you might notice some freed up storage on your Mac once you’ve made the upgrade to High Sierra. This is a result of the file system’s greater efficiency.
  • Cloning: When files or folders are copied, they are now “cloned,” which happens instantaneously and the duplicated file eats up barely any additional storage on your computer.
  • Fast directory sizing: You’ll no longer have to spend any time waiting for macOS to calculate the size of a particular folder or file in the “Get Info” screen. High Sierra keeps much better track of file / directory size and can display that data right away.
  • Snapshots and crash protections: AFPS can take snapshots, which are read-only copies of the state of the file system at a given time. This makes backups easier and more reliable — both for app developers and Apple’s Time Machine software.


The rise of high-resolution displays and 4K video has led Apple to bring support for HEVC (H.265) to High Sierra. The pitch for HEVC is that it enables video streaming and playback of 4K content, but with file sizes that are up to 40 percent smaller than H.264 videos. All Macs will get software support for HEVC, but hardware acceleration, which will improve playback and encoding even more, is exclusive to only the most recent Macs.


Sometime next year (Apple is saying spring 2018), owners of supported Macs will be able to connect external graphics cards over Thunderbolt 3 and instantly boost the gaming power of their system for far better performance with top titles and — eventually — support for virtual reality experiences. High Sierra is Apple’s initial step into eGPUs and VR, and it’ll be some time before we know how serious the company is about taking the fight to Windows here.


iTunes and the Mac App Store. Perhaps more than any other apps on macOS — well, besides Chess, DVD player, and Stickies — those two are in need of some rethinking. The App Store is being completely redesigned on iOS 11 with a bigger emphasis on editorial, but that’s not (yet) true of the Mac. Maybe next year.

Dashboard is also still hanging around and continues to feel largely ignored and unchanged dating back to sometime in 2006. It’s turned off by default. For all of Apple’s efforts to be super efficient, there’s still a lot of ancient software left untouched in High Sierra. Why not just cut the cruft?

There’s got to be more that Apple can do with this.

So that about covers what’s new in High Sierra. Should you install the beta? I can’t see any pressing reason to over the summer. This isn’t akin to the huge upgrade that iOS 11 gets you on the iPad. That’s perhaps worth dealing with some bugs for. But the Mac’s new software features are relatively small in scope, so it’s probably worth holding out until the steady, official release this fall — unless auto-play videos are really bugging you.

High Sierra will be available as a free download for all the same Macs that received Sierra in 2016.


Eclipse gets ready for Java 9 with Oxygen release train

Eclipse gets ready for Java 9 with Oxygen release train

Credit: Thinkstock

The Eclipse Foundation’s annual release train, featuring simultaneous updates to dozens of projects, has just arrived, featuring preliminary Java 9support. Called Oxygen, the release train covers 83 projects and includes 71 million lines of code.

Here are the key updates in Oxygen:

  • Java 9 support remains in beta stage, because Java 9 itself will not be made available until Java Development Kit 9 ships on September 21. Oxygen’s Java 9 support includes the ability to add the Java Runtime Environment for Java 9 as the installed JRE as well as backing for the Java 9 execution environment. Developers also can create Java and plug-in projects using Java 9 and compile modules that are part of a Java project. Eclipse’s signature Java IDE has been enhanced as well, with improvements to the UI.
  • Eclipse Linux Tools 6.0 updates Docker Tools with more security options. This project provides a C/C++ IDE for Linux developers.
  • Eclipse PDT (PHP Development Tools) 5.0 supports the 7.1 version of PHP, which offers nullable types and a void return type.
  • The Eclipse Sirius 5.0 platform for building domain-specific modeling tools, with usability enhancements.
  • Eclipse EGit 4.8.0, offering performance and usability for the Java implementation of Git code management integration for Eclipse.

Focused on open source tools, Eclipse has offered annual release trains every June since 2006, letting developers coordinate upgrades or new releases of multiple projects. Last year’s release train, Neon, offered tools for Docker and JavaScript. June 2018’s release is slated to be called Photon.


Google’s new Android app makes it easy to save mobile data on the go

Google’s new Android app makes it easy to save mobile data on the go

The good folks at Android Police have spotted a new app from Google called Triangle; it lets you control which other apps can use your mobile data. It’s a handy little tool if you’re stuck on a crappy plan or are low on credits abroad.

Just fire up Triangle, grant it the necessary permissions (including one that allows it to set up a VPN), and you can then monitor data usage, and restrict apps from consuming mobile data – even if you’ve 2G/3G/4G data turned on.

That’s useful for times when you might forget that you’re on limited data, and happen to launch a data-hungry app just to kill time (Reddit clients have swallowed up my entire allowance a few times). It’s also great for preventing apps from consuming data in the background without your knowledge.

You can also grant apps access to mobile data for 10 minutes or 30 minutes from a prompt that pops up when you launch an app. And there are rewards to be earned by installing promoted apps, but that’s only available to a couple of carriers in the Philippines.

Speaking of which, Google is presently testing Triangle in the Philippines, and so it’s only available to users there from the Play store. It is, however, available to sideload from APKMirror and it works like a charm even if you’re not in that country.

Care to try it yourself? Grab the installer APK from this page, and check out more info on Google Play.