Man, 24, pleads guilty to creating malware to steal banking data

Daniel Fowler
April 24, 2019

WASHINGTON, April 20 ― A British computer security researcher once hailed as a "hero" for helping stem a ransomware outbreak and later accused of creating malware to attack the banking system said yesterday he pleaded guilty to USA criminal charges.

"Marcus "MalwareTech" Hutchins, the British security researcher known for stopping the WannaCry ransomware outbreak, has pleaded guilty today to writing malware in the years prior to his prodigious career as a malware researcher", the ZDNet reported late on Friday.

Both counts carry maximum punishments of five years in prison and fines of up to 250,000 dollars (£190,000). In exchange for his plea to those charges, prosecutors dismissed eight more.

Hutchins said in a statement that he regrets his actions and takes "full responsibility" for his mistakes.

Hutchins, who goes by the online handle MalwareTech, was arrested in August 2017 as he was due to fly back to the United Kingdom following the Def Con security conference in Las Vegas. 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 of creating and selling the Kronos banking trojan, and denied any wrongdoing. Attorneys said Hutchins understands he could be deported. But the document did not include details of how widely the malware was used.

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It is still unclear how much money Hutchins made from creating the malware, but in online chats the Federal Bureau of Investigation intercepted on November 2014, Hutchins lamented the fact that he had only made $8,000 (€7,100) from five sales.

Marcus agreed towards the charges where he said how he is using his hacking skills for good and constructive purposes now but had been using the same skills for different purposes after he completed his high school when he created the said banking malware called Kronos.

"I will continue to devote my time to keeping people safe from malware attacks", he added.

Hutchins initially pleaded not guilty to all the charges and was scheduled to go on trial in July.

U.S. prosecutors did not immediately respond to an AFP query about the case.

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