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UK security expert who stopped WannaCry arrested

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The British security researcher that discovered a way to stop the threat of the WannaCry ransomware has been arrested in the United States (Las Vegas), under the accusation of being involved in creating other malware.

23-year-old Marcus Hutchins, a British security researcher who also goes by MalwareTech, was accused by the US Department of Justice of being involved in the creation, maintaining and the spreading of the Kronos banking Trojan.

Between 2014 and 2015, Kronos used phishing techniques to spread compromised Microsoft Word documents. Victims who’d run the documents would have their banking details stolen, allowing attackers to steal their money with ease.

Another man has been arrested with Hutchins, but so far no names have been released.

Hutchins has decided to remain silent for now.

His friends and family, according to a Guardian report (opens in new tab), are surprised and could never imagine Hutchins actually being the bad guy. His mother said it was “hugely unlikely” her son was involved in criminal activity as she believes he was too busy trying to combat malware.

A friend of his, who decided to stay anonymous, added: “There’s probably a million difference scenarios that could have played out to where he’s not guilty,” he said. “I’m definitely worried about him.”

Proofpoint’s security researcher Ryan Kalember said that sometimes researching malware can seem like being a part of it. “This could very easily be the FBI mistaking legitimate research activity with being in control of Kronos infrastructure. Lots of researchers like to log in to crimeware tools and interfaces and play around.”

Hutchins will remain detained until a new hearing later today.

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Sead Fadilpašić is a freelance tech writer and journalist with more than 17 years experience writing technology-focussed news, blogs, whitepapers, reviews, and ebooks. And his work has featured in online media outlets from all over the world, including Al Jazeera Balkans (where he was a Multimedia Journalist), Crypto News, TechRadar Pro, and IT Pro Portal, where he has written news and features for over five years. Sead's experience also includes writing for inbound marketing, where he creates technology-based content for clients from London to Singapore. Sead is a HubSpot-certified content creator.