Marcus Hutchins, also known as MalwareTech, helped foil the WannaCry “ransomware” virus that hit more than 300,000 computers in 150 countries. The US Department of Justice (DOJ) now says he has been detained on charges of creating and distributing Trojan malware.
“Marcus Hutchins … was arrested in the United States on August 2, 2017, in Las Vegas, Nevada, after a grand jury in the Eastern District of Wisconsin returned a six-count indictment against Hutchins for his role in creating and distributing the Kronos banking Trojan,” DOJ spokesperson Wyn Hornbuckle said in a statement to The Independent.
The Kronos malware is used to steal banking passwords from infected computers, allowing hackers to take money with ease. The malware was spread via infected email attachments.
Mr Hutchins is accused of creating, selling, and maintaining the malware, in collaboration with an unnamed codefendant, between July 2014 and July 2015. He was indicted on six separate, hacking-related charges.
The 22-year-old was arrested by the FBI on Wednesday, on his way back from the Def Con hacking conference in Las Vegas, Nevada.
The arrest set off a desperate search by his friends, who claimed they were not told where Mr Hutchins was being held.
“I can confirm @MalwareTechBlog was detained yesterday and FBI/US Marshalls won’t tell me where he is,” tweeted computer security company owner Andrew Mabbits on Thursday.
Mr Mabbitts now says he refuses to believe the charges against his friend, tweeting: “He spent his career stopping malware, not writing it.”
According to Mr Mabbitts, the young computer expert has secured legal counsel with help from the Electronic Frontier Foundation – a non-proft digital rights group.
I refuse to believe the charges against @MalwareTechBlog, not the MT I know at all. He spent his career stopping malware, not writing it.
— Andrew Mabbitt (@MabbsSec) August 3, 2017
Among other things, Mr Hutchins is accused of creating the malware and attempting to sell it for $3,000. The indictment alleges he also advertised the malware through videos and market forums.
Mr Hutchins first gained attention earlier this year, when he discovered a “kill switch” for the Wannacry virus. The young computer expert was deemed a “hero” and made headlines in the UK and beyond.
Since then, he has been working with law…