Three Americans Plead Guilty to Creating, Running and Renting Out Mirai Botnet
- Jacqueline Daniels
In plea deals with United States prosecutors, unsealed today, Jha admitted to being one of three people who created and ran the massive Mirai army of hacked gadgets as a DDoS-for-hire operation and as a click-fraud racket.
"Derivatives of Mirai live on today, with new IoT devices often targeted to see if a new variant of the botnet can be recreated, presumably to cause an equal amount of disruption".
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Jha was first listed as a possible suspect behind the attacks in January 2017, but his father, Anand Jha, told NJ Advance Media he was confident his son had no involvement with the attacks.
Mirai malware that was used by Jha and White to enslave hundreds of thousands of devices was used past year to disrupt access to much of the web. Among the targets was an Internet infrastructure firm, Dyn.
Prosecutors said Jha had sold the botnet to other criminals online, as well as threatening companies with similar DDoS attacks unless they paid. Just days after the attack on his site, the Mirai authors, who were going by the name "Anna Senpai", posted the source code publicly online. According to court documents, Jha stated that the pseudonym was chosen so that he could deny accusations in the event that authorities should find and persecute him and his co-creator.
The plea agreement also reveals that in August 2016, Mirai was used to attack an un-named USA company.
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"The defendants attempted to discover both known and previously undisclosed vulnerabilities that allowed them to surreptitiously attain control over the victim devices for the objective of forcing the devices to participate in the Mirai Botnet", the Justice Department said. Mirai comprised 300,000 IoT devices infected with malicious code that enabled the botnet to launch distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attacks. He also demanded payment "in exchange for halting the attack". Jha admitted to writing the source code for Mirai, malware that created a botnet by taking over hundreds of thousands of computers and connected devices like security cameras and DVRs, and used it to commit attacks and online fraud.
"The Mirai and Clickfraud botnet schemes are powerful reminders that as we continue on a path of a more interconnected world, we must guard against the threats posed by cybercriminals that can quickly weaponize technological developments to cause vast and varied types of harm", Acting Assistant Attorney General Cronan said in a statement. According to Webb, BackConnect provided the FBI with their technical expertise in the course of the investigation. Court documents did not accuse Norman of creating Mirai but said he helped monetize its use.
The Fanwood resident faces a maximum sentence of five years in prison and a $250,000 fine, the plea agreement said.
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