Mirai Botnet

In the fall of 2016 Josiah White, Paras Jha, and Dalton Norman unleashed the Mirai malware into the world and were responsible for massive DDoS (Distributed Denial of Service) attacks that crippled huge swaths of the internet.

The goal behind the release of the malware was to hijack thousands of IoT (internet of things) devices to create a botnet that would help them eliminate rival Minecraft hosts (big business), but the malware proved to be devastating far beyond the developers initial hopes as it began running amok across the internet.  Realizing how powerful their malware was and fearing that they would get caught, the developers released the malware “into the wild” to try to lessen the connection between themselves and the nefarious code.

The malware being so malleable and adaptable and with it now publicly available, it quickly spun totally out of control and began taking down massive sectors of the internet including crippling DYN, a company that powers a huge portion of the internet’s backbone and 900,000 German Telekom customers, as well as powering DDoS attacks galore.  Millions of web users were effected by the malware and big sites like Reddit and Twitter were taken offline.

In one of the strangest (and terrifying) aspects of this case, during the height of Mirai’s run, Brian Krebs the technology reporter was targeted with a DDoS attack by the malware after having written an article about a nefarious DDoS mitigation firm on his website KrebsOnSecurity. The attacks were so overwhelming and sustained that Akamai, the leading CDN provider, dropped his website from their portfolio because it couldn’t bear the massive costs of protecting his site.

Eventually the trio were caught by a crack FBI cyber division based out of Anchorage, Alaska.  In December of 2017 the trio pled guilty to charges under the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act.

In September 2018, it was reported that the architects behind Mirai were being sentenced to work with the FBI to help apprehend other cyber criminals along with probation and community service. It was also revealed that over the 18 months since their arrests they had helped the FBI with solving at least a dozen cyber crimes including going undercover on at least one DDoS case.  In seeking a reduced sentence the Justice Department cited the “extensive and exceptional” cooperation with the authorities.

Working with the authorities on cyber cases, in many cases while still committing crimes, is not uncommon as evidenced by the stories of Adrian Lamo and Albert Gonzales.

[Editor’s Note: For a fascinating read through all the details of Mirai and the investigation, which took down White, Jha and Norman, check out the Wired article HOW A DORM ROOM MINECRAFT SCAM BROUGHT DOWN THE INTERNET]

Interesting Facts:

  • The developers of Mirai were all between the ages of 18 and 20 years old when it was released. Owing to their youthful ages, the FBI dubbed them the “Dub Scout Pack.”
  • Mirai is a Japanese word for “Future.”

Sources Used For This Article:

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