Security Experts:

British Researcher Pleads Not Guilty to Creating Malware

British cybersecurity researcher Marcus Hutchins, known online as “MalwareTech,” has pleaded not guilty in a U.S. court to charges related to creating and selling a banking Trojan named Kronos.

The 23-year-old expert from Ilfracombe, England, became famous and was named a “hero” a few weeks ago after he helped stop the WannaCry ransomware attack by registering a domain that acted as a kill switch for the malware. MalwareTech had not made his real identity known online, but the fame brought by the WannaCry incident led to reporters tracking him down.

On Monday, Hutchins, who works for LA-based Kryptos Logic, pleaded not guilty in a Wisconsin federal court to all the charges brought against him. The hacker cannot leave the United States during his trial and he will be tracked via GPS.

Interestingly, while he will be allowed to access the Internet in order to continue working, he has been prohibited from accessing the domain used to stop the WannaCry outbreak.

The researcher was arrested while preparing to return to the U.K. from Las Vegas, where the Black Hat and Def Con security conferences had taken place. He was later released on a $30,000 bond, an amount raised by his friends and supporters.

The expert and an unnamed individual who Hutchins allegedly conspired with have been charged with six counts related to the creation, advertising, sale and use of the Kronos malware.

According to authorities, which claim these activities took place in 2014 and 2015, Hutchins’ partner attempted to sell the malware on dark web marketplaces, including the recently shut down AlphaBay, for $2,000 and $3,000.

Many believe the charges against the British researcher are the result of a mistake, considering his involvement in malware analysis. Some believe code written by him may have been weaponized by cybercriminals. A legal defense donation page has been set up to raise the funds necessary to ensure that Hutchins gets a fair trial.

"Marcus Hutchins is a brilliant young man and a hero," said Marcia Hofmann, the EFF and Zeitgeist Law attorney representing Hutchins at the hearing on Monday. "He is going to vigorously defend himself against these charges. And when the evidence comes to light we are confident he will be fully vindicated."

Hutchins is also represented by Brian Klein, a partner at Baker Marquart.

Related: British Hacking Suspect Will be Vindicated, Says Lawyer

Related: Arrest Shines Light on Shadowy Community of Good, Bad Hackers

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Eduard Kovacs (@EduardKovacs) is a contributing editor at SecurityWeek. He worked as a high school IT teacher for two years before starting a career in journalism as Softpedia’s security news reporter. Eduard holds a bachelor’s degree in industrial informatics and a master’s degree in computer techniques applied in electrical engineering.