The British cybersecurity researcher Marcus Hutchins has pleaded “not guilty” to charges of creating and selling malware designed to steal people’s online banking details.
Hutchins, 23, achieved fame as the “accidental hero” who helped to halt the spread of the WannaCry ransomware attack that crippled the UK’s National Health Service and many other companies around the world.
Earlier this month he was arrested in Las Vegas after the Def Con hacking conference for his alleged involvement in a separate piece of malware called Kronos, a trojan that was designed to harvest banking credentials to allow its user to steal money. He was released on bail last week, facing six counts of hacking-related charges dating to 2014 and 2015 – charges that could result in a 40-year prison sentence.
Hutchins appeared in court in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, for his arraignment on Monday. Hutchins is out on bail awaiting his trial, which is scheduled for October. Under the conditions of his release, Hutchins will have to wear a GPS tracker but will be allowed access to the internet so he can continue to work.
“Marcus Hutchins is a brilliant young man and a hero,” said his attorney Marcia Hofmann, speaking outside the courthouse. “He’s going to vigorously defend himself against these charges and when the evidence comes to light, we are confident he will be fully vindicated.”
Since his arrest, members of the cybersecurity community have rallied behind Hutchins, a popular member of the community known as a skilled and curious researcher who spent his teenage years writing software as a hobby and running a tech blog.
His current employer, the Los Angeles-based Kryptos Logic, hired him a year ago after being impressed by his approach to finding, reverse-engineering and analysing malicious software.
When he was given a $10,000 reward by HackerOne for his role in stopping WannaCry, he donated it to charity. Friends have set up a crowdfunding campaign to raise money for legal fees.