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UK 'cyber-hero' Marcus Hutchins charged in US hacking case

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By Alasdair Sandford
UK 'cyber-hero' Marcus Hutchins charged in US hacking case

<p>A British-based cyber security researcher praised for helping stop a global attack earlier this year has been arrested and charged in the United States over an unrelated hacking case.</p> <p>Marcus Hutchins was detained in Las Vegas and has been accused of involvement with malware known as Kronos, which stole online banking details and credit card data.</p> <p>The 23-year-old from Devon in southwest England was greeted as a hero for apparently helping to stop the WannaCry attack, which caused widespread disruption – including in the UK’s health service.</p> <p>The charges filed in Wisconsin allege he created and sold Kronos on internet forums. A US District Court accused Hutchins of advertising, distributing and profiting from malware code. A <a href="https://www.justice.gov/opa/pr/man-charged-his-role-creating-kronos-banking-trojan">statement from the US Justice Department</a> said his alleged activity took place between July 2014 and July 2015. </p> <p>The Briton was charged along with an unnamed co-defendant on July 12, but the case remained under seal until Thursday, a day after his arrest. Hutchins’ detention was first <a href="https://motherboard.vice.com/en_us/article/ywp8k5/researcher-who-stopped-wannacry-ransomware-detained-in-us-after-def-con">reported by the security website Motherboard</a>.</p> <p><blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-lang="en"><p lang="en" dir="ltr">Here is the indictment, alleging MalwareTech helped create and distribute the Kronos banking trojan <a href="https://t.co/Eolwk2uYrZ">https://t.co/Eolwk2uYrZ</a></p>— Joseph Cox (@josephfcox) <a href="https://twitter.com/josephfcox/status/893182325533663232">August 3, 2017</a></blockquote><br /> <script async src="//platform.twitter.com/widgets.js" charset="utf-8"></script></p> <p>Hutchins appeared in court in Las Vegas on Thursday and reportedly showed no emotion as the charges were read out. A federal public defender told the judge he “had cooperated with the government prior to being charged”. The hearing was scheduled to continue on Friday afternoon.</p> <p>Known online as “MalwareTech”, Hutchins tweeted about Kronos shortly after it was revealed, asking “Anyone got a Kronos sample?”.</p> <p><blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-lang="en"><p lang="en" dir="ltr">Anyone got a kronos sample?</p>— MalwareTech (@MalwareTechBlog) <a href="https://twitter.com/MalwareTechBlog/status/488373794168254464">July 13, 2014</a></blockquote><br /> <script async src="//platform.twitter.com/widgets.js" charset="utf-8"></script></p> <p>Within the cyber community, Hutchins was heralded as a folk hero for detecting a “kill switch” that effectively prevented the WannaCry cyber-attack from spreading. The outbreak in May infected computers in factories, hospitals, shops and schools in over 150 countries.</p> <p>Other cyber researchers have reacted with surprise, disbelief and scepticism at his arrest and the charges which have followed. “The government needs to show intent to further a crime,” said Orin Kerr, a professor at George Washington University Law School and expert on computer crime. “Merely creating a selling malware, on its own, isn’t enough.”</p> <p><blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-lang="en"><p lang="en" dir="ltr">Kronos is a Russian banking trojan, for info. I think there’s some major crossed wires here. <a href="https://t.co/OuKG5FENcL">pic.twitter.com/OuKG5FENcL</a></p>— Kevin Beaumont (@GossiTheDog) <a href="https://twitter.com/GossiTheDog/status/893180982614007809">August 3, 2017</a></blockquote><br /> <script async src="//platform.twitter.com/widgets.js" charset="utf-8"></script></p>