Dark Reading is part of the Informa Tech Division of Informa PLC

This site is operated by a business or businesses owned by Informa PLC and all copyright resides with them.Informa PLC's registered office is 5 Howick Place, London SW1P 1WG. Registered in England and Wales. Number 8860726.

Threat Intelligence

WannaCry 'Kill Switch' Creator Arrested in Vegas

Federal authorities indicted and nabbed Marcus Hutchins, aka MalwareTech, for allegedly creating and distributing the Kronos banking Trojan.

In a stunning move, federal authorities have arrested Marcus Hutchins, a researcher who earlier this year was credited with stopping the rapidly expanding WannaCry ransomware attack that spanned 150 countries in a matter of days.

Hutchins, a UK resident who also goes by the alias "MalwareTech," was indicted by a US federal grand jury on six counts relating to the creation and distribution of Kronos malware, according to a review of the complaint filed in the US District Court in the Eastern District of Wisconsin.

The indictment centers on his alleged creation of the Kronos malware and the alleged subsequent advertising and sale of the malware on Internet forums, such as the now defunct AlphaBay market forum, from July 2014 to July 2015.

A second defendant is listed in the indictment, but the name is blacked out. This defendant allegedly showed the functionality of the Kronos banking Trojan via a video posted on a publicly available Internet site in July 2014. He or she then allegedly offered to sell the banking Trojan for $3,000 on an Internet forum in the following month, according to the indictment.

Around February 2015, Hutchins and the second defendant allegedly updated Kronos' malware, and in April of that year advertised its availability on the now defunct AlphaBay Dark Web market forum, the indictment states. Then in June 2015, the other defendant allegedly sold the Kronos malware for approximately $2,000 in digital currency and then offered Kronos crypting services.

In late 2016, the Kelihos botnet was seen loading Kronos on computers via a phishing attack. Earlier this year, DOJ officials announced that the Kelihos botnet had been dismantled.

Federal authorities were deep into their two-year investigation into Kronos when the WannaCry ransomware attack emerged in May of this year and swept through a large footprint of countries.

Hutchins, who managed to stop the spread of the WannaCry attack shortly after it started with his kill switch, ironically, may have already been the target of the grand jury investigation when he became the accidental hero of the WannaCry outbreak.

The grand jury, nonetheless, delivered a six-count indictment against Hutchins on July 11, roughly two weeks before the start of Black Hat USA and DEF CON in Las Vegas, where Hutchins was scheduled to attend. Authorities arrested Hutchins in Las Vegas on Wednesday.

The indictment against Hutchins includes one count of conspiracy to commit computer fraud and abuse, three counts of distributing and advertising an electronic communication interception device, one count of trying to intercept electronic communications, and one count of attempting to access a computer without authorization, the DOJ stated in its announcement.

Some industry watchers, however, remain skeptical about the grounds for Hutchins' arrest. On Twitter, Alan Woodward (@ProfWoodward) tweeted: "Bearing in mind he tracks botnets and Kronos is a botnet, potential for this being a big misunderstanding. FBI enforcing a DoJ indictment."

Other skeptics include Swati Khandelwal, who via Twitter noted that on July 13, 2014, Hutchins posted a tweet that read: "Anyone got a kronos sample?"

Khandelwal then tweeted: "Creator asking for his own malware sample…doesn't this sound strange to the FBI?"

Meanwhile, the DoJ told Dark Reading that the second defendant's name remains under seal and information relating to the individual "won't be released for awhile."

Related Content:

Dawn Kawamoto is an Associate Editor for Dark Reading, where she covers cybersecurity news and trends. She is an award-winning journalist who has written and edited technology, management, leadership, career, finance, and innovation stories for such publications as CNET's ... View Full Bio

Comment  | 
Print  | 
More Insights
Comments
Newest First  |  Oldest First  |  Threaded View
HackerOne Drops Mobile Voting App Vendor Voatz
Dark Reading Staff 3/30/2020
Limited-Time Free Offers to Secure the Enterprise Amid COVID-19
Curtis Franklin Jr., Senior Editor at Dark Reading,  3/31/2020
Register for Dark Reading Newsletters
White Papers
Video
Cartoon Contest
Current Issue
6 Emerging Cyber Threats That Enterprises Face in 2020
This Tech Digest gives an in-depth look at six emerging cyber threats that enterprises could face in 2020. Download your copy today!
Flash Poll
State of Cybersecurity Incident Response
State of Cybersecurity Incident Response
Data breaches and regulations have forced organizations to pay closer attention to the security incident response function. However, security leaders may be overestimating their ability to detect and respond to security incidents. Read this report to find out more.
Twitter Feed
Dark Reading - Bug Report
Bug Report
Enterprise Vulnerabilities
From DHS/US-CERT's National Vulnerability Database
CVE-2020-5300
PUBLISHED: 2020-04-06
In Hydra (an OAuth2 Server and OpenID Certifiedâ„¢ OpenID Connect Provider written in Go), before version 1.4.0+oryOS.17, when using client authentication method 'private_key_jwt' [1], OpenId specification says the following about assertion `jti`: "A unique identifier for the t...
CVE-2019-19699
PUBLISHED: 2020-04-06
There is Authenticated remote code execution in Centreon Infrastructure Monitoring Software through 19.10 via Pollers misconfiguration, leading to system compromise via apache crontab misconfiguration, This allows the apache user to modify an executable file executed by root at 22:30 every day. To e...
CVE-2020-11102
PUBLISHED: 2020-04-06
hw/net/tulip.c in QEMU 4.2.0 has a buffer overflow during the copying of tx/rx buffers because the frame size is not validated against the r/w data length.
CVE-2020-11507
PUBLISHED: 2020-04-06
An Untrusted Search Path vulnerability in Malwarebytes AdwCleaner 8.0.3 could cause arbitrary code execution with SYSTEM privileges when a malicious DLL library is loaded.
CVE-2020-11544
PUBLISHED: 2020-04-06
An issue was discovered in Project Worlds Official Car Rental System 1. It allows the admin user to run commands on the server with their account because the upload section on the file-manager page contains an arbitrary file upload vulnerability via add_cars.php. There are no upload restrictions for...