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Published on April 22nd, 2019 📆 | 5560 Views ⚑

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WannaCry ‘Hero’ Marcus Hutchins Pleads Guilty to Creating Malware

British cybersecurity researcher Marcus Hutchins, known for his actions that helped stop the WannaCry ransomware attack, admitted in a U.S. court to aiding in the development and distribution of a banking Trojan.

Known online as MalwareTech, Hutchins was called a “hero” after stopping the WannaCry ransomware attack in May 2017 by registering a domain that acted as a kill switch for the malware. 

On August 2, 2017, however, he was arrested when getting ready to return to the U.K. from Las Vegas, where the Black Hat and Def Con security conferences had taken place. 

Hutchins was accused of being involved in the development, distribution and advertising of Kronos, a well-known banking Trojan. In August of 2017, the security expert pleaded not guilty to the charges related to the building of Kronos. 

Last week, Hutchins posted a statement on both his blog and his Twitter account, revealing that he pleaded guilty to two of the ten charges brought to him by the U.S. authorities. 

“As you may be aware, I’ve pleaded guilty to two charges related to writing malware in the years prior to my career in security. I regret these actions and accept full responsibility for my mistakes,” he said.

“Having grown up, I’ve since been using the same skills that I misused several years ago for constructive purposes. I will continue to devote my time to keeping people safe from malware attacks,” Hutchins continued.

On Twitter, the researcher thanked those who expressed support to him and pointed out that wearing a black hat to become a security expert is not necessary and that the community should work toward sharing knowledge to help people in the right direction.

“There's misconception that to be a security expert you must dabble in the dark side. It's not true. You can learn everything you need to know legally. Stick to the good side,” he said. 

In “Attachment A” of the plea agreement (PDF), U.S. authorities explain that the researcher was involved in the development of two pieces of banking malware, namely UPAS-Kit and Kronos. 

The document continues to explain that both UPAS and Kronos use form grabbers, key loggers, and web injects to steal user names, passwords, email addresses, and financial data from victim computers. Hutchins, the document states, built both pieces of malware and provided them to a partner to be sold for profit. 

Each of the charges he pleaded guilty to include carry a maximum up to 5 years in prison, up to $250,000 in fines, up to 1 year of supervised release, and a $100 special assessment.

It is currently unclear when Hutchins is scheduled for sentencing. 

Related: Code Linked to MalwareTech and Kronos Published in 2009

Related: British Researcher Pleads Not Guilty to Creating Malware

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Ionut Arghire is an international correspondent for SecurityWeek.

Previous Columns by Ionut Arghire:
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