Mirai botnet creators plead guilty

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Three of the individuals that were behind the Mirai internet of things (IoT) botnet attack have pleaded guilty for their roles in the attacks that crippled parts of the internet in late 2016.

Jha admitted to writing computer code to create a botnet - a collection of computers infected with "malware" software that controls the devices without their owner's knowledge, according to a plea agreement filed December 5 in federal court in Alaska. They also wanted to extort money from companies that either were under attack or wanted to avoid being attacked, it said.

But other criminals were able to use the source to conduct similar attacks, according to justice officials.

While the Federal Bureau of Investigation helped spearhead the campaign, the Mirai Botnet and Clickfraud Botnet cases are now primarily in the hands of prosecutor and Assistant U.S. Attorney Adam Alexander of the District of Alaska, and Trial Attorney C. Alden Pelker of the Computer Crime and Intellectual Property Section of the Criminal Division.

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Prosecutors accused the hackers of writing and using the Mirai botnet to hijack vulnerable internet-connected devices to launch powerful distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attacks.

"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".

The plea agreement also noted that around "September and October 2017", Paras Jha "securely erased the virtual machine used to run Mirai on his device".

One of the men, Jha, plead guilty to also launching a botnet attack on Rutgers University where he was a student, which took down the school's computer network.

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The plea agreement also reveals that in August 2016, Mirai attacked an un-named USA company.

Following this attack, Jha -who operated under the online pseudonym of Anna-senpai- released the malware's source code online, and other malware developers have used it to create countless of clones since then, such as the most recent variant, called Satori. The Rutgers University computer science student was originally publicly identified as a likely suspect in January 2017 by Brian Krebs, a well-known independent computer security journalist.

Mirai was not Jha's only exploit. The men have each been charged in Alaska with conspiracy to violate the Computer Fraud & Abuse Act, also known as the CFAA, a hacking statute which prohibits unauthorized access to networks, computer and other devices.

"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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