Wannacry-slayer Marcus Hutchins pleads guilty to two counts of banking malware creation

'I regret these actions and accept full responsibility for my mistakes'


Marcus Hutchins, the British security researcher who shot to fame after successfully halting the Wannacry ransomware epidemic, has pleaded guilty to crafting online bank-account-raiding malware.

For nearly two years now, Hutchins, 24, has been living in the US, while out on bail awaiting trial, after being collared in 2017 at Las Vegas airport by FBI agents acting on a tip-off.

The Brit, who was at the time trying to fly back home to Blighty after attending the Black Hat and DEF CON security conferences, was accused by the g-men of creating and selling the Kronos banking trojan, and denied any wrongdoing.

The US government subsequently piled on more criminal charges, and it now appears that the pressure has been too much: on Friday this week, Hutchins accepted a plea deal [PDF], and admitted two charges of malware development.

"I’ve pleaded guilty to two charges related to writing malware in the years prior to my career in security," he said in a statement.

hutchins

Lawyers for Marcus Hutchins: His 'I made malware' jail phone call isn't proper evidence

READ MORE

"I regret these actions and accept full responsibility for my mistakes. Having grown up, I’ve since been using the same skills that I misused several years ago for constructive purposes. I will continue to devote my time to keeping people safe from malware attacks."

Each of the two counts carries a maximum penalty of five years behind bars, a $250,000 fine, and a year of probation. As with most plea deals, he's likely to get less than that, though he may still spend some time in an American cooler.

While being held in jail after his arrest, Hutchins apparently admitted creating the software nasty. According to the Feds, the Brit at one point told an unnamed associate over a recorded telephone line: "I used to write malware, they picked me up on some old shit," later adding: "I wrote code for a guy a while back who then incorporated it into a banking malware."

Now the FBI have their guilty plea, and Hutchins – a professional malware reverse-engineer these days – is facing an uncertain future. But you have to wonder if it was all really worth it for the US authorities.

After all, plenty of today's cyber-security engineers and researchers have toyed with writing malware, even for research purposes. Thus, a stretch behind bars would be a very hard sentence for an offense committed when he was a teen. ®

Similar topics


Other stories you might like

  • FBI warning: Crooks are using deepfake videos in interviews for remote gigs
    Yes. Of course I human. Why asking? Also, when you give passwords to database?

    The US FBI issued a warning on Tuesday that it was has received increasing numbers of complaints relating to the use of deepfake videos during interviews for tech jobs that involve access to sensitive systems and information.

    The deepfake videos include a video image or recording convincingly manipulated to misrepresent someone as the "applicant" for jobs that can be performed remotely. The Bureau reports the scam has been tried on jobs for developers, "database, and software-related job functions". Some of the targeted jobs required access to customers' personal information, financial data, large databases and/or proprietary information.

    "In these interviews, the actions and lip movement of the person seen interviewed on-camera do not completely coordinate with the audio of the person speaking. At times, actions such as coughing, sneezing, or other auditory actions are not aligned with what is presented visually," said the FBI in a public service announcement.

    Continue reading
  • LGBTQ+ folks warned of dating app extortion scams
    Uncle Sam tells of crooks exploiting Pride Month

    The FTC is warning members of the LGBTQ+ community about online extortion via dating apps such as Grindr and Feeld.

    According to the American watchdog, a common scam involves a fraudster posing as a potential romantic partner on one of the apps. The cybercriminal sends explicit of a stranger photos while posing as them, and asks for similar ones in return from the mark. If the victim sends photos, the extortionist demands a payment – usually in the form of gift cards – or threatens to share the photos on the chat to the victim's family members, friends, or employer.

    Such sextortion scams have been going on for years in one form or another, even attempting to hit Reg hacks, and has led to suicides.

    Continue reading
  • Man gets two years in prison for selling 200,000 DDoS hits
    Over 2,000 customers with malice on their minds

    A 33-year-old Illinois man has been sentenced to two years in prison for running websites that paying customers used to launch more than 200,000 distributed denial-of-services (DDoS) attacks.

    A US California Central District jury found the Prairie State's Matthew Gatrel guilty of one count each of conspiracy to commit wire fraud, unauthorized impairment of a protected computer and conspiracy to commit unauthorized impairment of a protected computer. He was initially charged in 2018 after the Feds shut down 15 websites offering DDoS for hire.

    Gatrel, was convicted of owning and operating two websites – DownThem.org and AmpNode.com – that sold DDoS attacks. The FBI said that DownThem sold subscriptions that allowed the more than 2,000 customers to run the attacks while AmpNode provided customers with the server hosting. AmpNode spoofed servers that could be pre-configured with DDoS attack scripts and attack amplifiers to launch simultaneous attacks on victims.

    Continue reading
  • Former chip research professor jailed for not disclosing Chinese patents
    This is how Beijing illegally accesses US tech, say Feds

    The former director of the University of Arkansas’ High Density Electronics Center, a research facility that specialises in electronic packaging and multichip technology, has been jailed for a year for failing to disclose Chinese patents for his inventions.

    Professor Simon Saw-Teong Ang was in 2020 indicted for wire fraud and passport fraud, with the charges arising from what the US Department of Justice described as a failure to disclose “ties to companies and institutions in China” to the University of Arkansas or to the US government agencies for which the High Density Electronics Center conducted research under contract.

    At the time of the indictment, then assistant attorney general for national security John C. Demers described Ang’s actions as “a hallmark of the China’s targeting of research and academic collaborations within the United States in order to obtain U.S. technology illegally.” The DoJ statement about the indictment said Ang’s actions had negatively impacted NASA and the US Air Force.

    Continue reading
  • Five Eyes alliance’s top cop says techies are the future of law enforcement
    Crims have weaponized tech and certain States let them launder the proceeds

    Australian Federal Police (AFP) commissioner Reece Kershaw has accused un-named nations of helping organized criminals to use technology to commit and launder the proceeds of crime, and called for international collaboration to developer technologies that counter the threats that behaviour creates.

    Kershaw’s remarks were made at a meeting of the Five Eyes Law Enforcement Group (FELEG), the forum in which members of the Five Eyes intelligence sharing pact – Australia, New Zealand, Canada, the UK and the USA – discuss policing and related matters. Kershaw is the current chair of FELEG.

    “Criminals have weaponized technology and have become ruthlessly efficient at finding victims,” Kerhsaw told the group, before adding : “State actors and citizens from some nations are using our countries at the expense of our sovereignty and economies.”

    Continue reading
  • Beijing-backed baddies target unpatched networking kit to attack telcos
    NSA, FBI and CISA issue joint advisory that suggests China hardly has to work for this – flaws revealed in 2017 are among their entry points

    State-sponsored Chinese attackers are actively exploiting old vulnerabilities to "establish a broad network of compromised infrastructure" then using it to attack telcos and network services providers.

    So say the United States National Security Agency (NSA), Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA), and Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), which took the unusual step of issuing a joint advisory that warns allied governments, critical infrastructure operators, and private industry organizations to hurry up and fix their IT estates.

    The advisory states that network devices are the target of this campaign and lists 16 flaws – some dating back to 2017 and none more recent than April 2021 – that the three agencies rate as the most frequently exploited.

    Continue reading

Biting the hand that feeds IT © 1998–2022