Marcus Hutchins, a 23-year old British cyber security expert, who managed to analyze and stop the infamous WannaCry virus, has been arrested by US authorities.
While attending a Hacker Convention in Las Vegas, he was taken into custody by the FBI and charged with conspiracy to advertise and distribute a malicious software which targets bank accounts and networks.
An indictment released by the US Department of Justice revealed that he faces six counts of helping to create, spread and maintain the banking Trojan Kronos between 2014 and 2015. According to the indictment, the alleged offenses took place between July 2014 and July 2015.
His friend, who also works in the cyber security industry, said: “He was detained at McCarran airport yesterday. He checked into his flight and I think he was sitting in the Virgin upper class lounge. “He was escorted out of the airport and never made his flight.”
Around 20 hours after he went missing, Hutchins’ parents told the friend he had been arrested. After his arrest, Hutchins was taken to Henderson Detention Center in Nevada before being moved to the Las Vegas FBI field office.
Hutchins was jointly charged with another individual whose identity has been disclosed.
The indictment alleged that Hutchins “created the Kronos malware” and the other person later sold it for $2,000 online. The Kronos malware, or Kronos Trojan Horse, was spread through emails with malicious attachments and allowed users steal money using credentials such as internet banking passwords.
A public defender noted that Hutchins has no criminal history and has cooperated with federal authorities in the past. The court-appointed attorney said Hutchins needed more time to hire a private attorney. Hutchins, who asserted his fifth amendment right to remain silent, was ordered to remain detained until another hearing on Friday.
His mother, Janet Hutchins, told the Press Association it was “hugely unlikely” that her son was involved because he has spent “enormous amounts of time” combating such attacks. She said she was “outraged” by the charges and has been “frantically calling America” trying to reach her son.
Hutchins shot to fame when he helped stop the WannaCry ransomware attack in May which hit over 200,000 victims in around 150 countries. WannaCry encrypted files on computers then demanded users pay a bitcoin ransom to get them back. Hutchins however found a “kill switch” that was able to halt the spread of the attack.