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British Cybersecurity Expert Pleads Not Guilty To Federal Malware Charges

British IT expert Marcus Hutchins, branded a hero for slowing down the WannaCry global cyberattack, has pleaded not guilty to U.S. federal charges.
Frank Augstein
British IT expert Marcus Hutchins, branded a hero for slowing down the WannaCry global cyberattack, has pleaded not guilty to U.S. federal charges.

At a federal court in Wisconsin, a British cybersecurity expert pleaded not guilty to charges over an alleged malware scheme to steal personal banking information.

Before these accusations, Marcus Hutchins was known for his role in finding the "kill switch" to the WannaCry ransomware cyber-attack last May that "threatened over 150 countries," NPR's Leila Fadel reported.

After today's hearing, Hutchins' lawyer Marcia Hofmann described him as a "brilliant young man and a hero," and said that "when the evidence comes to light, we are confident he will be fully vindicated."

The FBI took Hutchins into custody earlier this month in Las Vegas, where he had been attending a cybersecurity conference.

In July, a federal grand jury indicted him and an unnamed co-defendant on six counts dating from July 2014 to July 2015.

The indictment accuses Hutchins of creating the malware, which is called Kronos. The two co-defendents then allegedly advertised it on internet forums and sold it.

Hutchins is charged with "one count of conspiracy to commit computer fraud and abuse, three counts of distributing and advertising an electronic communication interception device, one count of endeavoring to intercept electronic communications, and one count of attempting to access a computer without authorization," as Leila reported.

She added that other members of his community were shocked at the accusations, because they are counter to his reputation as a person devoted to preventing this kind of attack.

Hutchins was "granted bail on 5 August after $30,000 ...was raised by friends and family," according to the BBC.

But his release comes with strict conditions, as detailed by The Associated Press:

"His bond has been modified so that he can stay in Los Angeles near his attorney and travel anywhere in the U.S., but he cannot leave the country. He was also granted access to use a computer for work, a change from an earlier judge's order barring him from using any device with access to the internet. Hutchins has been working for a network security company, according to prosecutors, who did not oppose allowing him access to a computer for work."

"Hutchins is required to wear a GPS monitor, but [Magistrate Judge William] Duffin said the court will consider removing that requirement once Hutchins has found a home in Los Angeles and is complying with the terms of his bond."

The wire service adds that the next hearing is scheduled for Oct. 17.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Merrit Kennedy is a reporter for NPR's News Desk. She covers a broad range of issues, from the latest developments out of the Middle East to science research news.