Mirai Botnet : 3 Men Plead Guilty to Cybercrimes

Enlarge Image The Mirai botnet caused a massive web outage in 2016.                  Screenshot by Laura Hautala  CNET

In August 2016 the Mirai Botnet was unleashed, using millions of poorly secured IoT devices to launch a number of DDoS attacks that resulted in relatively minor impact by taking down the website of security analyst Brian Krebs through to clobbering the Dyn network which, in turn, resulted in some of the world's biggest websites dropping off the Internet. They also wanted to extort money from companies that either were under attack or wanted to avoid being attacked, it said.

One of the most notorious attacks came in 2016, after the botnet - Mirai's army of hijacked machines - set its targets on Dyn, an internet management company based in New Hampshire.

Although DDoS attacks are nothing new, the Mirai botnet demonstrates new levels of firepower that can cripple web services.

Paras Jha has agreed to plead guilty to computer-crimes charges in the case, according to federal court documents unsealed in Alaska on Tuesday. He and White used the botnet for click fraud, leased it out to other people for DDoS attacks, and ran extortion schemes in which they would launch DDoS attacks against victims' websites and then demand payment to call off the attacks. JHA also conspired to conduct DDOS attacks against Internet architecture associated with this group. Jha and his co-conspirators also designed the malware to rapidly spread by exploiting previously unknown vulnerabilities in IoT devices. A few weeks later, scammers used that source code to launch a major DDoS attack that disrupted internet access across the US. One of the accounts used to promote the service was "Ana Senpai", an account that eventually posted the source code for users to download for free. The botnet was used against Krebs' site and to attack internet firm Dyn in July 2016, which blocked access within the United States to several major websites, including Amazon, the New York Times, and Spotify.

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Jha posted the source code to "create plausible deniability" in the event law enforcement ever found the Mirai source code on his computer, according to U.S. investigators.

Jha and his co-conspirators also created a second botnet designed to engage in clickfraud. Because the victim activity resembled legitimate views of these websites, the activity generated fraudulent profits through the sites hosting the advertising content, at the expense of online advertising companies. The scheme was quite profitable, generating 100 bitcoins, or $180,000 back in January.

It reveals that Jha has waived his right to appeal, except in particular circumstances, but could still be facing up to ten years in prison and is facing fines of up to $250,000 in addition to his voluntary surrender of 13 bitcoin, which at the time of writing are worth around $220,000.

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