The British IT expert credited with derailing a global cyberattack in May was arrested, Department of Justice officials said Thursday, for allegedly creating and distributing malicious software designed to hack into banking systems.
Known as informally as "Malwaretech," Marcus Hutchins faces a six-count indictment, including conspiracy to commit computer fraud and abuse, attempting to access a computer without authorization, endeavoring to intercept electronic communications, and distributing and advertising an electronic communication interception device, dating back to July 2014 or 2015. The malware, dubbed the "Kronos banking Trojan," had the capacity to "harvest and transfer the username and password associated with banking websites as they are entered on an infected computer to a control panel hosted on another computer inaccessible to the victim."
Kronos infected banking systems located in Canada, Germany, Poland, France and the United Kingdom, among others.
"Cybercrime remains a top priority for the FBI," said Special Agent in Charge (SAC) Justin Tolomeo. "Cybercriminals cost our economy billions in loses each year. The FBI will continue to work with our partners, both domestic and international, to bring offenders to justice."
Hutchins' arrest came as a shock to the cybersecurity community. In May, the 22-year-old was hailed as a hero for his assistance in controlling the spread of the WannaCry ransomware attack that crippled thousands of computers associated with some of Europe's largest companies, including Britain's National Health Service and Spain's Telefónica. Computers across Russia, the Ukraine and Taiwan were also breached, leading to data being locked and held for ransom, the Guardian noted.
EFF is deeply concerned about security researcher Marcus Hutchins' arrest. We are looking into the matter, and reaching out to Hutchins.— EFF (@EFF) August 3, 2017
Hutchins was in Las Vegas for Def Con, an annual cybersecurity conference that ended Sunday. On Wednesday, he made comments on Twitter, suggesting that he was about board a plane for a flight home before he was detained.
Priority boarding so you can add to the time you're sat on a plane that is nowhere near ready to fly 😕— MalwareTech (@MalwareTechBlog) August 2, 2017
I fly to UK so I get to use the UK airlines which are amazing— MalwareTech (@MalwareTechBlog) August 2, 2017
Hutchins spent the night in federal custody and is expected to face arraignment on Friday.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.