Ransomware ‘hero’ pleads guilty to US hacking charges

This May 15, 2017, file photo shows British IT expert Marcus Hutchins, branded a hero for slowing down the WannaCry global cyberattack, during an interview in Ilfracombe, England. (AP)
Updated 20 April 2019

Ransomware ‘hero’ pleads guilty to US hacking charges

  • Hutchins could face up to one year in jail on each of the criminal counts along with financial penalties

WASHINGTON: A British computer security researcher once hailed as a “hero” for helping stem a ransomware outbreak and later accused of creating malware to attack the banking system said Friday he pleaded guilty to US criminal charges.
Marcus Hutchins, whose arrest in 2017 stunned the computer security community, acknowledged in a statement pleading guilty to criminal charges linked to his activity in 2014 and 2015.
“I regret these actions and accept full responsibility for my mistakes,” the 24-year-old Hutchins, known by his alias “MalwareTech,” wrote, noting that the charges related to his activity prior to his work in security.
“Having grown up, I’ve since been using the same skills that I misused several years ago for constructive purposes. I will continue to devote my time to keeping people safe from malware attacks.”
Hutchins in 2017 found a “kill switch” to stem the spread of the devastating WannaCry ransomware outbreak, prompting widespread news reports calling him a hero.
Months later he was arrested after attending the Def Con gathering of computer hackers in Las Vegas.
The case drew fire from critics who argued that researchers often work with computer code that can be deployed for malicious purposes.
A federal indictment unsealed in Wisconsin accused Hutchins and another individual of making and distributing the Kronos “banking Trojan,” a reference to malicious software designed to steal user names and passwords used on online banking sites.
According to the indictment, Hutchins was part of a conspiracy to distribute the hacking tool on so-called dark markets.
He was released on bail while awaiting trial, allowing him to continue working for a security firm. He had maintained his innocence and won support from many others in his profession.
US prosecutors did not immediately respond to an AFP query about the case. But court documents published by the news site ZDNet showed Hutchins could face up to one year in jail on each of the criminal counts along with financial penalties.
Other counts in the indictment were dismissed, according to the court papers.


SpaceX launch moving ahead, weather uncertain

Updated 30 May 2020

SpaceX launch moving ahead, weather uncertain

  • NASA chief Jim Bridenstine: ‘We are moving forward with launch today’

KENNEDY SPACE CENTER: SpaceX’s historic first crewed mission to the International Space Station was set to proceed as scheduled on Saturday, NASA said, although uncertainty remained over weather conditions.
“We are moving forward with launch today,” NASA chief Jim Bridenstine said in a tweet. “Weather challenges remain with a 50 percent chance of cancelation.”
“Proceeding with countdown today,” said SpaceX founder Elon Musk.
Weather forced the postponement on Wednesday of what would have been the first launch of American astronauts from US soil in almost a decade, and the first crewed launch ever by a commercial company.
The Falcon 9 rocket with SpaceX’s Crew Dragon capsule is scheduled to launch at 3:22 p.m. Eastern Time (1922 GMT) on Saturday.
The next window, which is determined by the relative positions of the launch site to the space station, is Sunday at 3:00 p.m. (1900 GMT), and fair weather is predicted.
NASA astronauts Bob Behnken, 49, and Douglas Hurley, 53, former military test pilots who joined the space agency in 2000, are to blast off for the ISS from historic Launch Pad 39A on a two-stage SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket.
The same launch pad was used by Neil Armstrong and his Apollo 11 crewmates on their historic 1969 journey to the Moon, as NASA seeks to revive excitement around human space exploration ahead of a planned return to Earth’s satellite and then Mars.
The mission comes despite shutdowns caused by the coronavirus pandemic, with the crew in quarantine for more than two weeks.
NASA has urged crowds to stay away from Cocoa Beach, the traditional viewing spot — but that did not deter many space fans on Wednesday.
President Donald Trump, who flew in for the previous launch attempt, is expected to attend again.