The WannaCry ransomware attack that terrorized computers the world over back in May this year turned up an unexpected hero in the form of a British security researcher calling himself MalwareTech. In surprising news, the man behind the moniker, Marcus Hutchins, has now gotten arrested in the US for allegedly creating banking malware.
It’s an unfortunate turn of events for Hutchins especially given his contribution towards ending WannaCry’s spread. To recall, he had noticed a specific domain name hidden in the ransomware’s code. He registered the website and miraculously stopped the malware’s reign of terror.
The 23-year-old will now need a miracle of his own if he wants to escape the mess he’s in. He appears to have gotten detained after the Defcon hacker conference in Las Vegas when he was heading back to the UK. The Department of Justice proceeded to unseal an indictment against him, claiming that he had come up with the Kronos banking trojan.
Kronos is a highly sophisticated system which rose to fame in 2014. It can be used to do things like stealing banking credentials and altering a bank’s website to trick people into entering their PIN code. The DOJ is accusing Hutchins of creating the malware for criminal use and trying to sell it for $3000 between 2014 and 2015 on dark web market sites like AlphaBay.
To be clear, it’s not actually a crime to make malware, but it is illegal to sell malware in aid of a crime. The US’ case now relies on proving the latter, but it doesn’t appear to have much evidence of this based on the 8-page indictment.
There’s been a flood of support for Hutchins from the cybersecurity community in the wake of his arrest, some of whom have pointed out that he’s built his career out of stopping cyber attacks, not starting them. Moreover, he currently works as a researcher for the UK-based security firm Kryptos Logic.