Marcus Hutchins, a 23-year-old cyber security expert who helped stopped the spread of the notorious WannaCry malware earlier this year, has been officially charged with creating another malware designed for stealing information from banking websites, as revealed by the United States Department of Justice (DOJ). Mr. Hutchins, a British national, was detained by the Las Vegas police last week, shortly after attending the latest iteration of Def Con, one of the largest hacker conventions on the planet. The circumstances leading to his arrest weren't immediately clear last week, though Gregory Haanstad, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Wisconsin, clarified on the matter shortly after he was detained, noting how charges against Mr. Hutchins were brought after a two-year federal investigation into the origins of Kronos.
The federal grand jury signed a six-count indictment against the digital security researcher that currently works for Kryptos Logic and is also known by his online handle "Malwaretech." The Kronos trojan started circulating the Internet circa 2014, infecting computers and stealing usernames and passwords of banking websites in the United Kingdom, Canada, Germany, France, and a number of other countries. Mr. Hutchins wasn't accused of being the initial creator of the malware but is facing charges for updating and disseminating it, according to the DOJ's press release on the matter. The trojan was reportedly being sold for up to $7,000 on the Russian black market and a strain of it designed to infect point-of-sale terminals emerged online following the spread of the initial version of the malicious software.
Mr. Hutchins is alleged to have been working on Kronos together with another individual, according to the DOJ. His supposed partner is currently unnamed, though it's unclear whether the authorities have identified them or not. The defendant is now held in the FBI's Las Vegas office and was reportedly without a representative shortly after his arrest. The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) is currently trying to get in touch with Mr. Hutchins, presumably in an effort to provide him with legal representation. The U.K. National Crime Agency is aware of the situation but isn't planning to intervene in any capacity, Forbes reported last week.