Tuesday 24 April 2018

Computer expert who helped shut down cyber attack on NHS arrested in US

British IT expert Marcus Hutchins
British IT expert Marcus Hutchins
Independent.ie Newsdesk

Independent.ie Newsdesk

The British computer expert who helped shut down a world-wide cyber attack that crippled the NHS has been charged with creating software that harvested banking details.

Marcus Hutchins, from Ilfracombe, Devon, was arrested in Las Vegas and charged with six counts in relation to creating and distributing the malware known as Kronos banking Trojan, the US Department of Justice said on Thursday.

Officials said after the 23-year-old's arrest on Wednesday that he was indicted by a grand jury in the Eastern District of Wisconsin in relation to charges in the year leading up to July 2015.

Hutchins, also known as MalwareTech, was hailed a hero in May when he found a "kill-switch" that slowed the effects of the WannaCry "ransomware" virus that hit more than 300,000 computers in 150 countries.

A friend from the IT security industry, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said Hutchins was arrested in McCarran International Airport after he tried to fly back from the Def Con hacking conference.

The National Crime Agency (NCA) confirmed Hutchins had been detained but said "it is a matter for the authorities in the US".

The cyber community expressed their concern over his arrest with Naomi Colvin, from civil liberties campaign group Courage, praising him for his earlier work.

She said: "In May this year, WannaCry malware closed hospitals in the UK, becoming the first ransomware attack to represent an actual threat to life.

"In halting the spread of WannaCry before the US woke up, MalwareTech did the world an enormous service - and to American businesses in particular."

Ms Colvin said he had been detained for 24 hours before information was released about his arrest and said he has still not been allowed to contact his family or lawyers.

"The US treats hackers far worse than other countries do, with much longer prison sentences, a dearth of vital health care and rampant solitary confinement," she said.

No one has claimed responsibility for the May attack but experts have connected it to Lazarus, a group also linked to the 2014 Sony Pictures hack.

Hutchins' mother, Janet Hutchins, said it was "hugely unlikely" that her son was involved because he has spent "enormous amounts of time and even his free time" combating such attacks.

She added that she is "outraged" by the charges and has been "frantically calling America" trying to contact her son.

Press Association

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