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Saturday, 05 August 2017 10:31

WannaCry hero Hutchins gets bail over malware charges


British security researcher Marcus Hutchins, who accidentally stopped the spread of the WannaCry ransomware that was affecting Windows machines in May, has been given bail by a court in Las Vegas after he was arrested in the US last week.

Hutchins, 23, who was charged with creating and distributing the Kronos banking trojan, was asked to pay US$30,000 in bail and will not be able to leave the US until legal proceedings are over.

There was no time to raise the money on Friday so he will be released on Monday. A large number of researchers and people from the IT community have contributed to raise the bail amount.

The prosecution claimed that he had admitted to writing malware. However, Hutchins regularly does this as a means of testing code as his research is essentially into malware.

Hutchins has pleaded not guilty to all six counts on his indictment.

He will have to wear a GPS tag while he is on bail and will not be able to use the Internet or make contact with an alleged co-author of Kronos.

Doubts were raised earlier about the grounds on which he was arrested, with another security researcher Kevin Beaumont pointing out that the Kronos malware was a Russian creation.

Beaumont also pointed out that Hutchins had asked for a sample of Kronos at the time the malware was active, which he would not have needed to do if he was the creator.

In May, Hutchins, then an unknown researcher going by the Twitter handle MalwareTech, was hailed as a hero when he accidentally stopped the spread of WannaCry by registering a domain that was listed in the code of the malware.

He reasoned that this could be a command and control server and promptly registered the domain which appeared to be a random name, comprising letters from the top two rows of a keyboard. It cost him just US$10.69.

This was in order to create a sinkhole so he could examine the malware further.

But his action unwittingly stopped the malware from spreading as it had been programmed to check this domain, and continue spreading if it could not access the domain. Once he registered the domain, it was accessible, and when this happened the attacks gradually slowed down.

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Sam Varghese

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Sam Varghese has been writing for iTWire since 2006, a year after the site came into existence. For nearly a decade thereafter, he wrote mostly about free and open source software, based on his own use of this genre of software. Since May 2016, he has been writing across many areas of technology. He has been a journalist for nearly 40 years in India (Indian Express and Deccan Herald), the UAE (Khaleej Times) and Australia (Daily Commercial News (now defunct) and The Age). His personal blog is titled Irregular Expression.

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