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Mirai Authors Avoid Prison After Working With FBI

Three individuals who last year admitted creating and using the notorious Mirai botnet have avoided prison after helping the FBI in other cybercrime investigations, the U.S. Department of Justice announced on Tuesday.

Josiah White, 21, of Washington, Pennsylvania; Paras Jha, 22, of Fanwood, New Jersey; and Dalton Norman, 22, of Metairie, Louisiana, pleaded guilty in December 2017 to criminal informations in relation to Mirai and what authorities call the “Clickfraud” botnet.

The Justice Department said on Tuesday that each of the men were sentenced to five years of probation and 2,500 hours of community service. They have also been ordered to pay $127,000 in restitution, and they have voluntarily handed over significant amounts of cryptocurrency seized during the investigation into their activities.

Jha, White, and Norman are said to have “cooperated extensively” with the FBI on complex cybercrime investigations before their sentencing and they will continue doing so. They must also cooperate with law enforcement and the broader research community.

The Mirai botnet ensnared hundreds of thousands of IoT devices, allowing cybercriminals to launch powerful distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attacks and conduct click fraud. Authorities said the three earned roughly $180,000 through their click fraud scheme.

Jha, a former Rutgers University computer science student, admitted writing the Mirai code and setting up the command and control (C&C) infrastructure.

The Mirai botnet attacks were investigated by the FBI’s Field Office in Anchorage, Alaska, and the cybercriminals were sentenced by the Chief U.S. District Judge in Alaska.

“Cybercrime is a worldwide epidemic that reaches many Alaskans,” said Bryan Schroder, the U.S. Attorney for the District of Alaska. “The perpetrators count on being technologically one step ahead of law enforcement officials. The plea agreement with the young offenders in this case was a unique opportunity for law enforcement officers, and will give FBI investigators the knowledge and tools they need to stay ahead of cyber criminals around the world.”

The conviction of Jha, White, and Norman is the result of cooperation between government agencies in the US, UK, Northern Ireland, and France, and private-sector companies such as Palo Alto Networks, Google, Cloudflare, Coinbase, Flashpoint, Oath, Qihoo 360 and Akamai.

Security blogger Brian Krebs correctly identified Jha and White as authors of Mirai in January 2017.

Related: Man Sentenced to 15 Years in Prison for DDoS Attacks, Firearm Charges

Related: Dutch Court Sentences CoinVault Ransomware Authors to Community Service

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Eduard Kovacs (@EduardKovacs) is a contributing editor at SecurityWeek. He worked as a high school IT teacher for two years before starting a career in journalism as Softpedia’s security news reporter. Eduard holds a bachelor’s degree in industrial informatics and a master’s degree in computer techniques applied in electrical engineering.