San Francisco, Aug 5: The 23-year-old British cyber security expert who was arrested in the US on charges of banking malware fraud has been granted bail under conditions that he pay $30,000 and not leave the country.
However, Marcus Hutchins who was hailed as a hero after he discovered a ‘kill switch’ that put brakes on the fast-spreading ‘WannaCrypt” ransomware in May, has to stay in jail till Monday “because there wasn’t enough time to post bail after Friday’s afternoon ruling,” The Washington Post reported late on Friday, quoting his lawyer.
Hutchins is scheduled to appear in a federal court in Milwaukee on August 8. If found guilty, he could face a maximum 40 years in prison in the US.
“The indictment is remarkably shallow even by indictment standards, which is disappointing because it adds considerable uncertainty and fosters distrust with the general security community,” Nicholas Weaver, computer scientist at the University of California at Berkeley, was quoted as saying.
The Electronic Frontier Foundation, a digital leading civil liberties non-profit organisation, said it helped arrange Hutchins counsel and was working to find him an attorney to provide “the best possible defense,” the report added.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) arrested Hutchins, who runs a security blog called MalwareTech, in Las Vegas for “his role in creating and distributing the Kronos banking trojan virus”.
According to a report in Los Angels Times, Hutchins is described as “having created, maintained and marketed the Kronos banking Trojan from July 2014 to July 2015”.
The trojan virus stole credentials and personal information and put malicious code on victims’ computers.
Hutchins helped slow the spread of ransomware called “WannaCry” in May that was locking files on computers around the world and unlocking them for a ransom of $300.
Hundreds of thousands of computers were infected with the malware. The damage forced some hospitals in the UK to turn patients away, and crippled businesses worldwide.
Hutchins, who is also malware researcher at the Kryptos Logic security firm, created a ‘kill switch’ that prevented the spread of the virus.
Hutchins’ arrest as he was attending a hackers’ conference in Las Vegas stirred a fierce debate on social media with his defenders saying that “law enforcement may have misinterpreted actions Hutchins took to find a way to protect against Kronos”.