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
Government Shutdown Brings Certificate Lapse Woes
Curtis Franklin Jr., Senior Editor at Dark Reading,  1/11/2019
Register for Dark Reading Newsletters
White Papers
Video
Cartoon Contest
Current Issue
The Year in Security 2018
This Dark Reading Tech Digest explores the biggest news stories of 2018 that shaped the cybersecurity landscape.
Flash Poll
How Enterprises Are Attacking the Cybersecurity Problem
How Enterprises Are Attacking the Cybersecurity Problem
Data breach fears and the need to comply with regulations such as GDPR are two major drivers increased spending on security products and technologies. But other factors are contributing to the trend as well. Find out more about how enterprises are attacking the cybersecurity problem by reading our report today.
Twitter Feed
Dark Reading - Bug Report
Bug Report
Enterprise Vulnerabilities
From DHS/US-CERT's National Vulnerability Database
CVE-2018-6345
PUBLISHED: 2019-01-15
The function number_format is vulnerable to a heap overflow issue when its second argument ($dec_points) is excessively large. The internal implementation of the function will cause a string to be created with an invalid length, which can then interact poorly with other functions. This affects all s...
CVE-2018-7603
PUBLISHED: 2019-01-15
In Drupal's 3rd party module search auto complete prior to versions 7.x-4.8 there is a Cross Site Scripting vulnerability. This Search Autocomplete module enables you to autocomplete textfield using data from your website (nodes, comments, etc.). The module doesn't sufficiently filter user-entered t...
CVE-2019-3554
PUBLISHED: 2019-01-15
Wangle's AcceptRoutingHandler incorrectly casts a socket when accepting a TLS 1.3 connection, leading to a potential denial of service attack against systems accepting such connections. This affects versions of Wangle prior to v2019.01.14.00
CVE-2019-3557
PUBLISHED: 2019-01-15
The implementations of streams for bz2 and php://output improperly implemented their readImpl functions, returning -1 consistently. This behavior caused some stream functions, such as stream_get_line, to trigger an out-of-bounds read when operating on such malformed streams. The implementations were...
CVE-2019-0030
PUBLISHED: 2019-01-15
Juniper ATP uses DES and a hardcoded salt for password hashing, allowing for trivial de-hashing of the password file contents. This issue affects Juniper ATP 5.0 versions prior to 5.0.3.