Back in 2017 we brought you the remarkable story of how a self-taught hacker and surfer from North Devon managed to poke a hole in a ransomware virus that was wreaking havoc on NHS computers. In the three years since the tale has taken some interesting twists.
In August 2017, just three months after halting the virus and being hailed as a hero, 24 year old Marcus Hutchins was arrested in Las Vegas as he made his way home from a Def Con hacker conference. A few days later, he was charged with several counts relating to the creation and distribution of a 2014 virus that stole users banking information.
In an intriguing twist that offers a window into the life of an all-star hacker, Hutchins is reported to have rolled up to the DefCon conference in a Lambo and hosted a series of penthouse parties during the event. Although these reports come largely from dubious twitter sources, his legal team did request that the testimony he gave to the FBI agents after his Vegas arrest be thrown out on the grounds that he was, “exhausted from partying all week and staying up late the night before until the wee hours,” adding that he may have still been on drugs. The request was denied after police contested he seemed perfectly fine.
Yesterday, after over two years on bail, Hutchins pleaded guilty to two of the ten chargers, with the other eight being dismissed.
“As you may be aware, I’ve pleaded guilty to two charges related to writing malware in the years prior to my career in security,” he said in a statement on his website. “I regret these actions and accept full responsibility for my mistakes. 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 has enjoyed huge support from many of his fellow hackers who contest it’s very difficult to build up the knowledge for the job without having at least tinkered with malicious code at one stage or another.
“The further back in time you go, the harder it becomes to learn certain skills without crossing paths with the wrong people,” Hutchins explained to this end, on his twitter. “The best thing we can do today is to continue sharing knowledge in an environment where we can steer people in the right direction.”
Court documents suggest he could face up to one year in prison for each of the charges, as well as incur severe financial penalties.