‘FBI-arrested prominent hacker provided great public service’
A British computer expert who stopped the spread of the WannaCry cyberattack was arrested by the FBI in Las Vegas.
Marcus Hutchins, 22, is now being charged with creating and distributing the Kronos virus, malware which spreads through email attachments and steals banking passwords from infected computers.
According to reports, his family has no contact with him and does not even know where he is being held.
RT: Hutchins is a British citizen and is being held in the US, and his family has no contact with him or knowledge of his whereabouts. How unusual is that, and is it justified?
John Kiriakou: It is not justified, but it is quite common. It is what’s called diesel therapy in the American prison system. What they do is they essentially out him in what amounts to a permanent transit status. When you’re in transit status in the American prison system, at least in the Federal prison system, you have no access to a telephone, no access to a computer to send an email, and no access to pen, paper, or stamps. It is a way of keeping a prisoner completely under wraps. So, he has no access to friends, family, or even to his own attorneys.
RT: Why would someone who was previously a hero in the fight against malware now turn to developing malware himself?
JK: It could be anything. It could be boredom; it could be money; it could be that he’s intellectually curious and just wanted to try something out and see if it worked. But I’ll tell you what, if I were the British government, I would be enraged over this arrest. I would expect that this arrest was not coordinated with the British government. Here’s a guy who has provided a great public service to the British people in this earlier hacking incident, and then the US turns around and arrests him. I think some questions have to be answered.
RT: If Hutchins turns out to be responsible for the Kronos malware, should his role in curbing the WannaCry attack result in leniency?
JK: I would say absolutely yes. Not just because that would be the right thing to do, but because the US is notoriously hard on hackers. In fact, we sentence hackers in this country, sometimes to sentences longer than murderers get. That’s just simply not fair.
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