The FBI Has Arrested the British Security Researcher Who Stopped WannaCry

By Tom Pritchard on at

You might remember WannaCry the malware being serious ransomware attack back in May, you know the one that crippled NHS computer systems in hospitals across the country. That same attack was halted thanks to the work of an anonymous security researcher who was promptly outed by the tabloids.

Now Marcus Hutchins, who was originally known by his handle MalwareTech, has been arrested by the FBI and charged with creating malware.

Last night Motherboard reported that Hutchins had been arrested while attending DEFCON, a hacking and security-centric conference in Las Vegas. Although there was initially confusion on who had arrested him, and where he was actually being held, it was revealed that Hutchins was detained at the FBI's Las Vegas field office.

Both Hutchins and another unnamed person were jointly charged and accused of helping create and spread the banking Trojan Kronos, which was active between 2014 and 2015. Kronos spread via infected email attachments, with the intention of stealing user passwords and online banking credentials. It should be noted that the allegations are completely unrelated to WannaCry.

Hutchins' mother, Janet, told the Press Association that she believes it's "highly unlikely" that her son was involved, given how he had spent "enormous amounts of time" working against these sorts of attacks. She's reportedly "outraged" by the charges, and had been frantically ringing the States to try and speak to him. A friend, who wished to remain anonymous, told The Guardian "there’s probably a million difference scenarios that could have played out to where he’s not guilty. I’m definitely worried about him."

The Guardian also reports that Hutchins' co-defendant is being accused of advertising Kronos on the darknet marketplace AlphaBay, which was seized by the FBI and shut down on 20th July.

Hutchins has reportedly been helping the GCHQ's National Cyber Security Centre since he helped halt the spread of WannaCry, who told Motherboard that they "are aware of the situation. This is a law enforcement matter and it would be inappropriate to comment further." A spokesperson for the Home Office also confirmed that they were aware of the arrest, saying "We are in contact with the local authorities in Las Vegas following the arrest of a British man, and are providing support to his family." [Motherboard via Engadget]

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