Mirai botnet hacker behind 2016 web outage pleads guilty

Remigio Civitarese
Dicembre 14, 2017

Three men, including an Indian American, pleaded guilty to creating a "botnet" known as Mirai that was used to paralyze chunks of the internet in 2016.

Paras Jha, Josiah White and Dalton Norman pleaded guilty for their roles in the Mirai IoT botnet cyber-attacks on December 5, according to Department of Justice documents unsealed on December 12.

A broad "denial of service" attack waged using the Mirai botnet knocked services such as Twitter and Netflix offline in October 2016.

A prominent cybersecurity journalist, Brian Krebs, had outed Jha and White back in January as likely suspects involved in creating the Mirai botnet. The two used to run a company that marketed itself as a means to mitigate incoming DDoS attacks.

The Mirai malware also caused havoc later a year ago when it was used to stop people's internet routers working. The guilty plea also reveals Jha's motivation for the attack, and it's less exotic than you might think.

Jha and Norman were additionally charged in the District of Alaska with conspiracy to violate the Computer Fraud & Abuse Act for infecting more than 100,000 primarily US -based devices, including home Internet routers, with malware that allowed the victims to be utilized in advertising fraud known as "clickfraud".

"Utilizing undisclosed vulnerabilities meant that Jha and co-conspirators would not have to compete with other criminal actors seeking to develop illicit botnets for access to these devices", the court documents states.

Jha also pleaded guilty to executing a series of attacks on the networks of Rutgers University.

"These computer attacks shut down the server used for all communications among faculty, staff and students, including assignment of course work to students, and students' submission of their work to professors to be graded", the Justice Department said in a statement. It is not clear if the three men were responsible for that attack, as Jha posted the code for Mirai to online criminal forums around that time.

Mirai was not Jha's only exploit.

That includes time for separate attacks he carried out against Rutgers University's internet network, which he has also admitted, as detailed by the New Jersey Ledger newspaper.

In August 2016, defendant PARAS JHA engaged in a feud with rival DDOS botnet operators, during which period JHA generated and sent fraudulent abuse complaints to hosting providers associated with the rival group.

"In or about September and October 2017, defendant Paras Jha took steps to destroy or hide evidence from law enforcement", the plea agreement stated.

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