Journalists to use ‘immune system’ software against fake news

 

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Broadcast, print and online journalists are to begin using an automated fact-checking system that quickly alerts them to false claims made in the press, on TV and in parliament.

An early version of the system, dubbed the “bullshit detector” by its creators, will be rolled out for testing from October as part of a global fightback against fake news.

It is being developed by researchers at the Full Fact organisation in London with $500,000 (£380,000) of funding from charitable foundations backed by two billionaires: the Hungarian-born investor George Soros, and the Iranian-American eBay founder Pierre Omidyar.

The software, which was demonstrated to the Guardian, scans statements as they are made by politicians and instantly provides a verdict on their veracity. An early version relies on a database of several thousand manual fact-checks, but later versions will automatically access official data to inform the verdict. The researchers are co-operating with the Office of National Statistics on the project.

The Full Fact program will be first tested in the UK but will also be deployed in South America and Africa, where Kenya’s presidential election campaign has been beset by fake news such as bogus BBC and CNN news reports using fabricated polls to overstate the prospects of President Uhuru Kenyatta.

In London, Full Fact is working with Chequeado, an Argentina-based fact-checking organisation, and Africa Check, which operates in several sub-Saharan countries, including Nigeria and South Africa.

“It is like trying to build an immune system,” says Mevan Babakar, project manager at Full Fact in London. “As more information goes out into the world that is wrong, what we don’t have is the means of pushing back against that.”

The early version of the software scans the subtitles of live news programmes, broadcasts of parliament, the Hansard parliamentary record, and articles published by newspapers. It tracks millions of words sentence by sentence until it identifies a claim that appears to match a fact-check already in its database.

The Guardian witnessed a real-time demonstration during a health debate in parliament. Words spoken by the politicians were underlined if they matched an existing fact-check. For example, the claim that “in the last six years of the last Labour government, 25,000 hospital beds were cut” flags a fact-check from the database that states: “Correct, the number of overnight beds in the English NHS actually fell by slightly more – about 26,000 – between 2003-04 and 2009-10”.

Another claim, that 10,000 more NHS nursing training places had been made available is also flagged: “Incorrect. This figure refers to the government’s ambition for additional places by 2020 on nursing, midwifery and child health courses”.

In another version of the software, the fact-checks pop up on the TV screen as politicians are speaking, giving viewers instant verdicts on politicians’ claims. The experience of watching political debate programmes like BBC’s Question Time could be transformed.

The developers want to expand the program so that it carries out its own fact-checks by using databases of statistics and verified information. Work is also under way to give Twitter and Facebook users the chance to fact-check their social media feeds, where the large majority of the worst fake news has been distributed.

“This is an important investment in the future of fact-checking,” says Stephen King, the Omidyar Network’s global lead on governance and citizen engagement. “These tools will expand the reach and impact of fact-checkers around the world, ensuring citizens are properly informed and those in positions of power are held accountable.

However, Babakar is keen to stress the limitations of the system so far and believes the tool should only be used by journalists in the first instance rather than the general public.

“If we go straight to the public it will pit us against people wanting quick answers who won’t be satisfied because we can’t always make the answers small,” she said. “It is to help the journalist better push back, for example by challenging politicians at a press conference rather than going back to their desk and researching the claims. This way you can challenge the claim straight away. That is really important for public debate.”

The fledgling system is not without its problems; sometimes it flags up a fact-check that isn’t relevant, for example. The challenge for the programmers is to get the software to understand the fuzzy logic and idiom used so often in speech.

Neither is Babakar comfortable with the idea that the system separates the true from the false, especially since “fake” has become associated with information people dislike rather than which is objectively false.

“I have a problem with the word truth because that means different things to different people,” said Babakar. “I think things are correct or incorrect. A truth can be personal. People may say crime is rising because it is in their area but the national average may be falling.”

The software’s aim is not to offer people conclusions, but instead provide “the best available evidence”, Babakar says.

What Curiosity has yet to tell us about Mars

Curiosity selfie on lower Mount Sharp

After five years on Mars, the Curiosity rover is an old pro at doing science on the Red Planet. Since sticking its landing on August 5, 2012, NASA’s Little Robot That Could has learned a lot about its environs.

Its charge was simple: Look for signs that Gale crater, a huge impact basin with a mountain at its center, might once have been habitable (for microbes, not Matt Damon). Turning over rocks across the crater, the rover has compiled evidence of ancient water — a lake fed by rivers once occupied the crater itself — and organic compounds and other chemicals essential for life.

NASA has extended the mission through October 2018. And there’s still plenty of interesting chemistry and geology to be done. As the robot continues to climb Mount Sharp at the center of the crater, Curiosity will explore three new rock layers: one dominated by the iron mineral hematite, one dominated by clay and one with lots of sulfate salts.

So, here are four Martian mysteries that Curiosity could solve (or at least dig up some dirt on).

Does Mars harbor remnants of ancient life?

Curiosity’s Mars Hand Lens Imager can take microscopic images, but preserved cells or microfossils would still have to be pretty big for the camera to see them. What the rover can do is detect the building blocks for those cells with its portable chemistry lab, Sample Analysis at Mars. The lab has already picked up chlorobenzene, a small organic molecule with a carbon ring, in ancient mud rock. Chains of such molecules go into making things like cell walls and other structures.“We’ve only found simple organic molecules so far,” says Ashwin Vasavada, a planetary scientist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory who leads Curiosity’s science team. Detective work in chemistry labs here on Earth could shed light on whether bigger organic molecules on Mars’ surface might degrade into smaller ones like chlorobenzene.

Curiosity could still turn up intact, heavier-duty carbon chains. The rover carries two sets of cups to do chemistry experiments, one dry and one wet. The latter contains chemical agents designed to draw out hard-to-find organic compounds. None of the wet chemistry cups have yet been used. A problem with Curiosity’s drill in December 2016 has held up the search for organics, but possible solutions are in the works.

To combat cholera in Yemen, one scientist goes back to basics

Yemeni women waiting for charity water

Rowa Mohammed Assayaghi teaches people how to wash their hands. In Yemen, that’s life-saving work.

The Middle Eastern country is facing the world’s largest cholera outbreak, with nearly 409,000 suspected cases and 1,885 deaths from late April to late July, the World Health Organization reports. That tally is higher than 2015’s worldwide reported cholera deaths. A bacterial infection spread by feces-contaminated water, cholera causes diarrhea, vomiting and dehydration. The outbreak, which began in October 2016 and ramped up in April, is a result of a two-year civil war.

“The war … greatly affected all service sectors such as the health sector, water supply, sanitation, electricity, transportation and roads, hygiene services and so on,” says Assayaghi, a medical microbiologist at Yemen’s Sana’a University.

More than half of Yemen’s 27.4 million residents lack access to clean water, according to UNICEF. Most wells are contaminated by garbage, septic backups and rainwater runoff — perfect conditions for Vibrio cholerae to thrive.

It’s possible that people are also contracting E. coli from “charity water” being brought in to help. “We found high count of E. coli” in samples of the water, she says. That one-two punch could be making the cholera outbreak more severe, says Nagi Alhaj, a microbiologist and Assayaghi’s former colleague. Alhaj fled to Malaysia when his toddler son was injured in an air strike soon after the war began. “My country has been destroyed by war and microbe,” he says.

Only a handful of Yemen’s hospitals and clinics remain functional enough to deal with the fallout. The epidemic is so severe that the United Nations scrapped plans to deliver more than a million cholera vaccines so health workers could focus on treating the sick. All that’s left to defend against V. cholerae is a patchwork of dedicated aid workers, health care professionals and scientists, Assayaghi among them. She had been studying viruses to treat cancer. But the war and collapsing economy put that work on hold.

Assayaghi, age 40, travels to cholera-affected regions, teaching people how to avoid contracting or spreading the disease. “Focusing on health awareness is one of the most important measures to follow,” she says.

She shows people how to sterilize what water they have via filters, chlorine tablets and boiling. She distributes soap and instructs people on what to do if family members start showing symptoms: Wear gloves, wash hands after contact, give the person oral rehydration solution the moment diarrhea appears and go to the nearest health center.

When not volunteering, Assayaghi tries to continue some research despite intermittent electricity and scarce supplies. She remains in Yemen because of her job and to take care of her father and two sisters. “I am responsible for my family,” she says. Taking them all abroad would be too costly. If she could, Assayaghi says, she would leave Yemen immediately.

UK citizens to get more rights over personal data under new laws

 

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People will get a new right to force social media companies and online traders to delete their personal data under laws to be brought forward by the government this summer. Matt Hancock, the minister for digital, said it would amount to a “right to be forgotten” by companies, which will no longer be able to get limitless use of people’s data simply through default “tick boxes” online.

Plans to give people the right to request a deletion of social media posts from their childhood were floated by Theresa May during the Conservatives’ election campaign and legislation was promised in the Queen’s speech. However, the measures appear to have been toughened since then, as the legislation will give people the right to have all their personal data deleted by companies, not just social media content relating to the time before they turned 18.

The legislation will also give the Information Commissioner’s Office powers to issue tougher fines of up to £17m, or 4% of global turnover, for breaches of data law. But one of the main aims of the bill is to replace the data protection act and make sure that the UK’s laws are compliant with the EU’s general data protection regulation, so that data can continue to flow freely across borders after Brexit.

“Our measures are designed to support businesses in their use of data, and give consumers the confidence that their data is protected and those who misuse it will be held to account,” Hancock said.

“The new data protection bill will give us one of the most robust, yet dynamic, sets of data laws in the world. It will give people more control over their data, require more consent for its use, and prepare Britain for Brexit. We have some of the best data science in the world, and this new law will help it to thrive.”

Elizabeth Denham, the information commissioner, said data handlers would be made more accountable for the data “with the priority on personal privacy rights” under the new laws.

The definition of “personal data” will also be expanded to include IP addresses, internet cookies and DNA, while there will also be new criminal offences to stop companies intentionally or recklessly allowing people to be identified from anonymous personal data.

The laws are different from the “right to be forgotten” by search engines, which relates to a European court of justice ruling that led to people asking Google and other companies to take down links to news items about their lives.

Hancock is expected to reveal more details about the plans on Monday, but the legislation will not be published until after the summer recess.

The main aim of the legislation will be to ensure that data can continue to flow freely between the UK and EU countries after Brexit, when Britain will be classed as a third-party country. Under the EU’s data protection framework, personal data can only be transferred to a third country where an adequate level of protection is guaranteed.

The government has stressed that it is “keen to secure the unhindered flow of data between the UK and the EU post-Brexit”. But the EU committee of the House of Lords has warned that there will need to be transitional arrangements covering personal information to secure uninterrupted flows of data.

Shadow culture secretary Tom Watson said: “Labour’s manifesto committed to allowing young people to remove content shared on the internet before they turned 18, so we’re glad the government is taking action on this. As we are leaving the EU it is more important than ever that we have a robust data protection framework fit for the future.”

I have herpes and my partner and I have both lost our libido

 

 

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My partner and I have been together for 15 years but the sex has always been a bit hit and miss. I get occasional bouts of herpes and as she is, understandably, worried about it, she insists I use a condom, which I hate. She has also been going through her menopause, leading to dryness and tightness. Neither of us has any libido and, to top it all, I have become a premature ejaculator.

As you and your partner have discovered, physical changes associated with ageing, health issues or infection can have profound effects on intimacy. But people who don’t work on the sexual aspect of their relationship miss out on the pleasure, relaxation and comfort that sex can provide. I can understand if it seems overwhelming, because you have multiple challenges, but, individually, none is a big problem.

Early ejaculation can be treated, and it is important to address this as soon as possible because it is probably a primary underlying reason for your stated loss of libido. Herpes outbreaks and condom-use can certainly diminish desire, so it would help enormously if you could manage to reframe both as mere inconveniences.

The problem of vaginal dryness due to hormonal changes, which your partner is experiencing, can be addressed in a number of ways, through hormone supplements, creams or lubrication, and by changing your lovemaking technique to whatever is most comfortable for her. Be frank, and express your willingness to try to return to a more comfortable, anxiety-free erotic connection.

Google employee fired over diversity row considers legal action

 

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Computer engineer James Damore, axed for suggesting women were less suited to certain tech roles, may challenge dismissal

The computer engineer fired by Google for suggesting women are less suited to certain roles in tech and leadership is considering taking legal action against the company.

James Damore, a chess master who studied at Harvard, Princeton and MIT and worked at the search engine’s Mountain View HQ in California, caused outrage when he circulated a manifesto at the weekend complaining about Google’s “ideological echo chamber” and claiming women have lower tolerance of stress and that conservatives are more conscientious.

He was fired on Monday after the search giant’s chief executive, Sundar Pichai, said portions of Damore’s 10-page memo “violate our code of conduct and cross the line by advancing harmful gender stereotypes”.

Damore has now said he would “likely be pursuing legal action”.

“I have a right to express my concerns about the terms and conditions of my working environment and to bring up potentially illegal behaviour, which is what my document does,” he said in an email reported by the New York Times.

In a further email to the rightwing website Breitbart, he reportedly said: “They just fired me for ‘perpetuating gender stereotypes’.”

Damore had argued in a document circulated internally and then leaked that “Google’s left bias has created a politically correct mono-culture that maintains its hold by shaming dissenters into silence”.

He said: “The distribution of preferences and abilities of men and women differ in part due to biological causes, and that these differences may explain why we don’t see equal representation of women in tech and leadership.”

The senior software engineer had worked at Google since 2013 and had previously studied computational biology at Princeton, Harvard and the University of Illinois where he graduated with a bachelor’s degree in 2010 in the top 3% of his class, according to his CV posted online.

In his memo, subtitled “How bias clouds our thinking about diversity and inclusion”, he said he wanted to increase women’s representation in tech without resorting to discrimination.

He complained that “discriminating just to increase the representation of women in tech is as misguided and biased as mandating increases for women’s representation in the homeless, work-related and violent deaths, prisons and school dropouts”.

His suggestions included the company making tech and leadership less stressful because “women are on average more prone to anxiety”.

His dismissal followed outrage in Silicon Valley because Damore sought to explain the gender imbalance in the tech industry as a function of biological difference.

Julian Assange, the founder of Wikileaks, said on Tuesday that he would like to hire Damore, declaring “censorship is for losers”. Writing on Twitter he said: “WikiLeaks is offering a job to fired Google engineer James Damore. Women and men deserve respect. That includes not firing them for politely expressing ideas but rather arguing back.”

He added: “I value intellectual diversity and workers rights to not be fired for politely expressing the ‘wrong’ opinion.”

It also sparked a conservative backlash, with Breitbart and other rightwing websites rushing to Damore’s defence.

Breitbart quoted an anonymous employee who claimed that “the diversity gospel has been woven into nearly everything the company does, to the point where senior leaders focus on diversity first and technology second.

“For conservative employees, this is obviously demoralising, but it is also dangerous. Several have been driven out of the company or fired outright for sharing a dissenting view.”

Eric Weinstein, managing director of Trump advocate Peter Thiel’s venture capital firm, wrote an open missive to Google asking it to “stop teaching my girl that her path to financial freedom lies not in coding but in complaining to HR”.

While many condemned his note, some Google staff defended Damore, taking to anonymous message boards such as the workplace gossip app Blind to share their views.

“Can we go back to the time when Silicon Valley [was] about nerds and geeks, that’s why I applied [to] Google and came to the US. I mean this industry used to be a safe place for people like us,” wrote one on the app, which requires users to prove they are from the company they claim to be part of when signing up.

Public comments, however, were much more critical, with Google employees tweeting that “the internal response to the doc ranges from anger and disgust, to sadness”, and “it went viral because 99% of people wanted to comment about how unsupported/wrong/hurtful the doc was”.

Google is in a difficult position because it accepted that “much of what was in the memo is fair to debate”.

Pichai said in a note to colleagues on Monday: “People must feel free to express dissent. So to be clear again, many points raised in the memo – such as the portions criticising Google’s trainings, questioning the role of ideology in the workplace and debating whether programmes for women and underserved groups are sufficiently open to all – are important topics.”

Google’s vice president of diversity, integrity and governance, Danielle Brown, said Google was right to take a stand on building an open inclusive environment, but recognised “strong stands elicit strong reactions”.

She said part of being open was “fostering a culture in which those with alternative views, including different political views, feel safe sharing their opinions”. But she said that needed to work alongside principles of equal employment and anti-discrimination laws.

Some legal observers have questioned whether Google has broken employment law by firing Damore.

Dan Eaton, an employment lawyer, in San Diego wrote on CNBC: “Federal labour law bars even non-union employers like Google from punishing an employee for communicating with fellow employees about improving working conditions … California law prohibits employers from threatening to fire employees to get them to adopt or refrain from adopting a particular political course of action.”

He also said” “It is unlawful for an employer to discipline an employee for challenging conduct that the employee reasonably believed to be discriminatory, even when a court later determines the conduct was not actually prohibited by the discrimination laws.”

Sacrificed dog remains feed tales of Bronze Age ‘wolf-men’ warriors

 

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Remains of at least two Late Bronze Age initiation ceremonies, in which teenage boys became warriors by eating dogs and wolves, have turned up in southwestern Russia, two archaeologists say. The controversial finds, which date to between roughly 3,900 and 3,700 years ago, may provide the first archaeological evidence of adolescent male war bands described in ancient texts.

Select boys of the Srubnaya, or Timber Grave, culture joined youth war bands in winter rites, where they symbolically became dogs and wolves by consuming canine flesh, contend David Anthony and Dorcas Brown, both of Hartwick College in Oneonta, N.Y. This type of initiation ceremony coincides with myths recorded in texts from as early as roughly 2,000 years ago by speakers of Indo-European languages across Eurasia, the researchers report in the December Journal of Anthropological Archaeology.

Those myths link dogs and wolves to youthful male war bands, warfare and death. In the ancient accounts, young warriors assumed names containing words for dogs or wolves, wore dog or wolf skins and, in some cases, ate dogs during initiation ceremonies.

Mythic themes involving dogs from 2,000 years ago may differ from the rites practiced 4,000 years ago, Anthony acknowledges. “But we should look at myths across Eurasia to understand this archaeological site,” he says.

But some researchers are unconvinced by the pair’s explanation for why at least 64 dogs and wolves were sacrificed at the Krasnosamarskoe settlement.

“Archaeologists can weave mythology and prehistory together, but only with extreme caution,” says archaeologist Marc Vander Linden of University College London.

At most, Indo-European mythology suggests that Late Bronze Age folks regarded dogs as having magical properties and perhaps ate them in rituals of some kind, Vander Linden says. But no other archaeological sites have yielded evidence for teenage male war bands or canine-consuming initiation rites, raising doubts about Anthony and Brown’s proposed scenario, he argues.

Some ancient Indo-European myths attribute healing powers to dogs, says archaeologist Paul Garwood of the University of Birmingham in England. In those myths, dogs absorb illness from people, making the canines unfit for consumption. Perhaps ritual specialists at Krasnosamarskoe sacrificed dogs and wolves as part of healing ceremonies without eating the animals, Garwood proposes.

Dog and wolf deposits at the Russian site align with myths connecting these animals to war bands and initiation rites, not healing, Anthony responds.

Michael Witzel, an authority on ancient texts of India and comparative mythology at Harvard University, agrees. Anthony and Brown have identified the first archaeological evidence in support of ancient Indo-European myths about young, warlike “wolf-men” who lived outside of society’s laws, he says.

Excavations at Krasnosamarskoe in 1999 and 2001 yielded 2,770 dog bones, 18 wolf bones and six more bones that came from either dogs or wolves. Those finds represent 36 percent of all animal bones unearthed at the site. Dogs account for no more than 3 percent of animal bones previously unearthed at each of six other Srubnaya settlements, so canines were not typically eaten and may have been viewed as a taboo food under most circumstances, the investigators say.

Bones from dogs’ entire bodies displayed butchery marks and burned areas produced by roasting. Dogs’ heads were chopped into 3- to 7-centimeter-wide pieces using a standardized sequence of cuts. It was a brutal, ritual behavior that demanded practice and skill, Anthony asserts. Cattle and sheep or goat remains at Krasnosamarskoe also show signs of butchery and cooking but do not include any sliced-and-diced skulls.

Separate arrays of dog bones indicate that at least two initiation ceremonies, and possibly several more, occurred over Krasnosamarskoe’s 200-year history. Microscopic analyses of annual tissue layers in tooth roots of excavated animals indicated that dogs almost always had been killed in the cold half of the year, from late fall through winter. Cattle were slaughtered in all seasons, so starvation can’t explain why dogs were sometimes killed and eaten, the researchers say.

DNA extracted from teeth of 21 dogs tagged 15 as definitely male and another four as possibly male, leaving two confirmed females. A focus on sacrificing male dogs at Krasnosamarskoe is consistent with a rite of passage for young men, Anthony says.

Excavations of a Srubnaya cemetery at the Russian site produced bones of two men, two women, an adult of undetermined sex and 22 children, most between ages 1 and 7. The two men, who both displayed injuries from activities that had put intense stress on their knees, ankles and lower backs, may have been ritual specialists, the researchers speculate. These men would have directed initiation ceremonies into war bands, Anthony says.

WhatsApp Tests Facebook-Style Coloured Text Status Feature

WhatsApp Tests Facebook-Style Coloured Text Status Feature: Report

Late last year, Facebook started rolling out coloured statuses on its Android app that allowed users to write their status update with a colourful background, font, and emoji combination. Now, the same feature has been spotted on WhatsApp as well, and while currently it’s in beta, it can be expected to arrive for all users soon.

Android Police was first tipped about this feature, and it is showing up in Android beta version 2.17.291. The report states that even though you might be on this latest version on the WhatsApp Android beta app, it is possible that you may not see this feature. It is presumably a server side switch from WhatsApp’s end, so only select users are seeing it now even in beta. We can’t see it either. In any case, few users are now seeing a floating pen icon in the Status tab at the bottom of the screen, right above the camera icon. Clicking on the pen icon brings up the option to type a status, choose a font, emoji, and the background colour as well.

When you’re done writing the status and making the necessary changes, you can then hit the green arrow key to send the text status, just like how you send media content now. The status will then be published on WhatsApp for all your contacts to see.

The revamped WhatsApp Status feature was launched in February, and has managed to achieve more than 250 million daily active users in such a short span, much more than what Snapchat itself enjoys currently.

Google Stamp Said to Be in Testing With Publishers, a Snapchat Discover-Style Tool

Google Stamp Said to Be in Testing With Publishers, a Snapchat Discover-Style Tool

Alphabet Inc’s Google is developing technology that media companies could use to create stories similar to those found on Snapchat’s “Discover” platform, a person familiar with the plans said on Friday.

Google’s project, dubbed “Stamp,” is in the early stages of testing with publishers, said the person, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

Tech firms including Google, Snapchat’s owner Snap Inc and Facebook are racing to develop publishing tools for media companies, hoping to fill their own apps with news, entertainment, sports and other content.

The challenge for such tools is making them faster and easier to use than a Web browser, while creating an interesting experience for users.

Snapchat’s “Discover” tab is distinct in the way it integrates video clips with text and photos, allowing users to skip to a new story or advertisement with the touch of a finger.

The Wall Street Journal first reported the development of Google Stamp earlier on Friday, citing people familiar with the matter.

Google has been in discussions with several publishers, including Vox Media, Time Warner’s CNN, Mic, the Washington Post and Time Inc to participate in the project, the newspaper said.

Google said in a statement: “We don’t have anything to announce at the moment but look forward to sharing more soon.”

The name Stamp echoes an existing Google product, Accelerated Mobile Pages, or AMP, that allows for faster loading of online news stories. Facebook has a competing product, Instant Articles.

US Judge Sets $30,000 Bail for UK Hacker Who Helped Stop WannaCry

 

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A US judge in Las Vegas set a $30,000 bail on Friday for a well-known British cyber-security researcher accused of advertising and selling malicious code used to pilfer banking and credit card information.

Marcus Hutchins, 23, gained celebrity status within the hacker community in May when he was credited with neutralising the global WannaCry ransomware attack.

His attorney, Adrian Lobo, told reporters Hutchins would not be released on Friday because the clerk’s office for the court closed 30 minutes after his hearing concluded, leaving his defence team not enough time to post the bail.

Lobo told a local NBC affiliate that Hutchins would be released on Monday and that she expected him to be on a flight on Tuesday to Wisconsin, where a six-count indictment against him was filed in US District Court. He was receiving support from a “variety of sources” around the world to post his bail, she said.

Judge Nancy Koppe dismissed a federal prosecutor’s claim that Hutchins was a flight risk, though she did order him to surrender his passport. If released, Hutchins would be barred from computer use or Internet access.

Hutchins, also known online as MalwareTech, was indicted along with an unnamed co-defendant on July 12. The case remained under seal until Thursday, a day after his arrest in Las Vegas, where he and tens of thousands of others flocked for the annual Black Hat and Def Con security conventions.

Hutchins allegedly advertised, distributed and profited from malware code known as “Kronos” between July 2014 and 2015, according to the indictment. If downloaded from email attachments, Kronos left victims’ systems vulnerable to theft of banking and credit card credentials, which could have been used to siphon money from bank accounts.

He achieved overnight fame in May when he was credited with detecting a “kill switch” that effectively disabled the WannaCry worm, which infected hundreds of thousands of computers in May and caused disruptions at car factories, hospitals, shops and schools in more than 150 countries.

Hutchins was “doing well, considering what’s gone on,” Lobo, told reporters. She said Hutchins never expected to be in his current situation and that she did not know the identity of his co-defendant.

News of Hutchins’ arrest on Wednesday shocked other researchers, many of whom rallied to his defence and said they did not believe he had ever engaged in cyber crime.