A self-taught computer-security researcher credited with stopping a devastating cyberattack that crippled British hospitals in May was arrested on charges that he created malware used to hack banking systems in Canada and Europe, the US said.
Marcus Hutchins, who started blogging under the pseudonym MalwareTech when he was a teenager, was arrested Wednesday in Las Vegas, the Justice Department said in a statement. Court documents unsealed Thursday show he was indicted in July on several charges of computer misconduct relating to the creation and distribution of the Kronos banking Trojan, a type of malicious program that steals usernames and passwords for banking websites from infected machines.
Hutchins’ arrest came as a shock to the cybersecurity industry, which was coming off its biggest week of the year at the Black Hat and Def Con conferences in Las Vegas, which Hutchins had attended. Among white-hat security researchers, who hack technologies to find ways to fix them, Hutchins was a hero. They hailed his quick thinking in neutralizing the WannaCry ransomware just hours into a fast-spreading attack in May that threatened not just computer systems but also potentially lives.
WannaCry infected about 300,000 computers in 150 countries, locking users out unless they paid a ransom in bitcoin. Victims included the UK’s National Health Service, whose hospitals were disrupted, as well as FedEx Corp., Nissan Motor Co. and Renault. Hutchins found a clever way to stop the attack by registering an Internet domain that served as a ‘kill switch’ for the malware, a secret that was hidden in its code.