Three hackers involved in a massive fraud in 2016 are lucky to receive leniency from an Alaskan court. The college-aged hackers behind the Mirai botnet pleaded guilty in 2017. Subsequently, they received a five-year jail time sentence each. However, citing “extraordinary cooperation,” the court gave them the option to stay out of jail.
Paras Jha, 22, comes from Fanwood, New Jersey, while Josiah White, 21 is from Washington, Pa. In addition, the third man is Dalton Norman from Metairie, La. At the time of sentencing, they received 2,500 hours of community service. Furthermore, the court ordered them to pay $127,000 USD each in restitution for the damage caused by their malware.
According to a Department of Justice press release, Mirai took websites offline for almost four days in 2016. In addition, the malware targeted “Internet of Things” (IoT) devices. The devices include wireless cameras, routers, and digital video cameras. Interestingly, all these devices are “non-traditional computing devices.”
Furthermore, the DoJ press release adds that the defendants pleaded guilty to Clickfraud botnet. Basically, this is a violation of the Computer Fraud & Abuse Act. A “clickfraud” is a scheme that makes a fraudulent “click” appear as if a real user clicked on an advertisement. It targeted the advertisement industry because advertisers rely on clicks to gauge if an ad message is effective.
Normally, if an individual runs a website, every click on an advertisement by a user earns the website revenue. Hence, the hackers used the scheme to fraudulently generate income from advertisers. Therefore, an internet-based clickfraud is a heinous crime. According to court documents, the hackers behind Mirai botnet formed the clickfraud using the hijacked IoT devices.
Hackers behind Mirai Botnet Expose a Cybercrime Epidemic
Commenting on the case, U.S. Attorney Bryan Schroder said, “Cybercrime is a worldwide epidemic.” Particularly, he adds, those who are ahead technologically are the ones perpetrating the crime.
Fortunately, the investigators secured the help of the “young offenders” to help tame the crime wave. Schroder is counting on the hackers to provide important knowledge to investigators. Hopefully, the information will help them “stay ahead of cybercriminals around the world.”
According to an Anchorage FBI’s Cyber Crime unit special agent, Mirai refers to a Japanese anime called Mirai Nikki. Interestingly, the name means “future diary” when loosely translated. The agent says the hackers were fans of that anime.
The attack affected devices mainly in Alaska, where the investigation took place.
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