The security community was shocked on Thursday when
the news broke that the Marcus Hutchins, a researcher hailed as a
hero for halting the spread of the devastating WannaCry
cyberattack, has been arrested.
Hutchins — better known as MalwareTech online — has been accused
of being behind another piece of nasty malware: Kronos.
In May this year, WannaCry spread around the world, crippling
hospitals and seriously disrupting businesses. It infected
organisations in 150 countries, encrypting data and demanding a
bitcoin bounty to unlock it, and was only stopped when Hutchins
inadvertently triggered a “kill switch” while investigating it.
WannaCry had a massive effect on Britain’s NHS (National Health
Service), and as such the researcher attracted significant media
attention and praise for his actions. He was even offered a
$10,000 (£7,600) reward,
which he pledged to donate to charity.
As such, his indictment in America, after attending the hacker
conference Defcon, has been met with shock and confusion. So what
is Kronos? The indictment defines it like so:
“Kronos” was the name given to a particular type of malware that
recorded and exfiltrated user credentials and personally
identifying information from protected computers.” Kronos malware
was commonly referred to as a “banking Trojan.”
In other words: It’s malicious software that can steal victims’
banking details, which can then be used to break into their
accounts and commit fraud.
reports that it could also add extra forms to the banking
webpages on infected users’ computers — prompting them to enter
further personal info like PIN codes.
The indictment alleges that Hutchins created the malware, after
which it was advertised for sale online in 2014. There is an
unnamed co-defendant in the case, who is accused of advertising
Kronos online (including on the now-shuttered dark web
marketplace AlphaBay) and selling it.
Kronos was advertised for sale for $3,000 (£2,282), the
but IBM researchers in 2014 found it for sale for as much
$7,000 (£5,324) — far more than most other similar
malware. The researchers wrote:
“The business side of this offer is interesting as well. Most
malware today is sold in the low hundreds of dollars, sometimes
even offered for free due to several malware source code leaks.
Comparatively, the Kronos malware carries a hefty cost of $7,000.
This price, however, is not the first time a new malware seller
has demanded a premium. Approximately four years ago, Carberp was
released and priced at $10,000 (and $15,000 for the addition of
the VNC module, which is almost a standard capability of today’s
financial malware). The Kronos seller also offers a one-week
testing server for $1,000, during which time a potential client
will have access to the malware’s control panel and all the bot’s
Here’s a translation of the original advertisement for Kronos,
via IBM researchers:
I present you a new banking Trojan
Compatible with 64 and 32bit rootkit Trojan is equipped with the
tools to give you successful banking actions.Formgrabber: Works
on Chrome, IE, FF in latest versions. Works on the majority of
older versions as well. Steals logs from each website Webinjects:
Works on latest Chrome, IE, FF, latest and majority of older
versions. Injections are in Zeus config format, so it’s easy to
transfer the config from one another.32 and 64bit Ring3 rootkit:
The Trojan also has a ring 3 rootkit that defends it from other
Proactive Bypass: The Trojan uses an undetected injection method
to work in a secure process and bypass proactive anti-virus
protections. Encrypted Communication: Connection between bot and
panel is encrypted to protect against sniffers. Usermode Sandbox
and rootkit bypass: The Trojan is able to bypass any hook in
usermode functions which bypasses rootkits or sandboxes which use
1000$ a week of testing. The server will be hosted only for you.
You need just a domain or a payment including the domain fee.
You’ll have full access to the C&C, without any limits or
restrictions during test mode.7000$ Lifetime product license,
free updates and bug removals. New modules will not be free , and
you will need to pay additionally. We accept Perfect Money,
Bitcoin, WMZ, BTC-E.comCurrently the Trojan is written in its
fullest. Next week we will have tests and bug fixing, then
release. Pre-ordering the Trojan will give you a discount.
Here’s the full indictment: