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Researcher who neutralized WCry pleads not guilty to writing banking malware

Enlarge / At right, Marcus Hutchins, the British security expert accused of creating and selling malware that steals banking passwords, arrives Monday with his lawyers Marcia Hofmann, left, and Brian Klein, at the federal courthouse in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. He pleaded not guilty to the charges. (credit: Joshua Lott/Getty Images)

Marcus Hutchins, the British security researcher instrumental in neutralizing the virulent WCry ransomware worm that shut down computers worldwide in May, appeared in federal court Monday and pleaded not guilty to unrelated criminal charges that he created and distributed malware that steals banking credentials.

Hutchins, who is free on $30,000 bond, was arrested August 3 in Las Vegas following the Black Hat and Defcon security conferences. A six-count Wisconsin federal indictment (PDF) accuses him of developing the Kronos banking trojan. Along with an unnamed co-conspirator, Hutchins allegedly advertised the malware on the AlphaBay underground online market forum, according to the indictment. The document says the duo "sold a version of the Kronos malware in exchange for approximately $2,000 in digital currency" on June 11, 2015.

The indictment said the defendant, who goes by the online nickname of "MalwareTech," knowingly "disseminated by electronic means an advertisement of any electronic, mechanical, or other device, knowing and having reason to know that the design of such device renders it primarily useful for the purpose of the surreptitious interception of electronic communications...." Other charges include allegations that he sold an "electronic, mechanical, or other device, in interstate and foreign commerce, knowing and having reason to know that the design of such device renders it primarily useful for the purpose of the surreptitious interception of electronic communications."

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Security researcher who neutralized WCry to be released on $30,000 bond

Enlarge (credit: Penn State)

Marcus Hutchins, the celebrated security professional who was arrested Wednesday on federal charges he helped create and distribute malware that steals banking credentials, will be released from detention pending $30,000 bail, according to Las Vegas reporter Christy Wilcox and other news outlets.

Wilcox reported on Twitter that Hutchins will stay in a halfway house until more permanent housing arrangements are made. She said Hutchins would spend at least one more night in detention, because defense attorneys were unable to raise the required funds in time. The security researcher, who was instrumental in neutralizing the virulent WCry ransomware worm that shut down computers worldwide in May, appeared at a federal court hearing in Las Vegas late Friday afternoon wearing a yellow detainee jumpsuit with orange Crocs and socks.

According to the reporter, federal prosecutors told the court that Hutchins admitted to developing the malware at the heart of the criminal case and to playing a role in its sale. She said Hutchins' attorney disagreed with that claim. Federal prosecutors also attempted to block Hutchins' request for bail on grounds he had shot firearms at a shooting range last week while in Vegas for the Black Hat and Defcon security gatherings. Magistrate Judge Nancy Koppe ruled that Hutchins is not a danger to the community and has sufficient community support to not be a flight risk, the Associated Press reported.

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This is the banking malware the WannaCry hero supposedly created

Kronos Banking Malware

Earlier this year, a 23-year-old security researcher miraculously stopped a viral computer virus that was spreading to hundreds of thousands of Windows computers faster than anything else. The computers WannaCry crippled were not instantly saved, but Marcus Hutchins managed to prevent others PCs from getting the ransomware.

Now, the same security researcher is held by the FBI, as he’s accused of having created a rather dangerous banking malware a few years ago.

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Researcher who stopped WannaCry attack arrested for separate hacking crimes

WannaCry malware: Marcus Hutchins arrested

Marcus Hutchins, a UK-based security researcher who was instrumental in stopping the spread of the WannaCry ransomware earlier this year, has been arrested while attending the DEFCON security conference in Las Vegas. Hutchins, who goes by the handle MalwareTech online, was arrested by the FBI in connection with Kronos, a malware package that he allegedly helped write and sell on dark web forums.

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The WannaCry hackers have started cashing out

WannaCry ransomware: Bitcoin

Back in May, the WannaCry ransomware hit businesses, hospitals, and even national infrastructure across the globe. Ransomware like WannaCry encrypts your files and holds them hostage, demanding payment in Bitcoin before the encrypted files will be released.

The authors of WannaCry have been slowly collecting money from victims for months, and thanks to the magic of Bitcoin, we can tell that they've started to cash out.

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