Marcus Hutchins, cybersecurity hero turned cybercrime defendant, starts telling his story
"I was shaking, I think I sweat through my t-shirt and through my blazer. I did not know how to feel - it just felt like everything was coming to an end but not in a good way..."
For Marcus Hutchins, a dream that had turned into a nightmare ended in July with a compassionate sentence by a judge in Milwaukee. "I just got out of my court hearing for the sentencing, of course. I wasn't really sure how it was going to go down, I was very, very nervous", he told us right after leaving the courtroom. "But the judge took a very broad view of the entire circumstances rather than just the case at hand - he weighed up my past work helping security. He also went into the unique circumstances of me being stuck in a foreign country instead of at home. And he ended up ruling 'time served', which was actually a big surprise to me. But looking back it does make sense when you weigh in the fact that I've not been at home, I've been forced to stay in a foreign country for two years."
Hutchins became a cybersecurity celebrity from one day to another in 2017. "I came back from lunch, saw all the news about something targeting the NHS and so I decided to dig a little deeper into what it does, which was when I noticed that there was an unregistered domain inside the code", he recalls what happened that day. He registered the domain and the infection count went down. He had - rather accidentally - found the kill switch for the Wanna Cry epidemic.
Coming in October: WannaCry - The Marcus Hutchins StoryMarcus Hutchins, the cybersecurity hero who stopped WannaCry turned cybercrime defendant, tells his story in this exclusive documentary. Coming to YouTube en...
It changed his life - he became a hero, just to fall to zero a few weeks after. "I woke up on, I believe, a Sunday morning to see my face over a two page spread of the Daily Mail. Media had actually posted my address in the paper, which meant now I had the risk of the bad guys I am fighting, knowing where I live."
Hutchins is a calm and friendly personality, and he pleaded guilty to a dark past. He had created a banking malware called Kronos and sold it through an online marketplace. It's unclear if it was his sudden fame that sparked the FBI's interest in Hutchins or if they had been after him before, but it didn't take long until his short period of heroism was over.
He spent a few days of vacation at the hacker conference DefCon in Las Vegas. With friends he shared a mansion with a huge pool (as they figured out it was cheaper than booking hotel rooms for all of them). They celebrated more than actually participating in the conference - with a 30 bedroom mansion, huge pool, sports cars. Back at the airport, though, the party was over. "At this point, I am completely exhausted, I have no idea what's going on anymore and I am just relaxing in the lounge waiting for my flight. And a man and two other people in uniform approached me and asked: are you Marcus Hutchins? I said yes and they asked me to come with them. It turned out the guy was actually an FBI agent and that's when they arrested me".
Two years later he left the court, clearly not a hero anymore. Yet, a free man.
See his story and the story of WannaCry in the second part of our hacker:HUNTER series: WannaCry - The Marcus Hutchins Story. On Tomorrow Unlocked at the end of October.