Three men arrested for creating and running the Mirai botnet two years ago avoided prison time after cooperating with the FBI.
The three provided “substantial assistance in other complex cybercrime investigations,” the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) said.
Paras Jha, 22, of Fanwood, NJ; Josiah White, 21, of Washington, PA, and Dalton Norman, 22, of Metairie, LA pleaded guilty in December 2017.
The trio admitted to creating Mirai, which they configured to infect routers and smart devices running Linux-based operating systems.
The malware would assemble infected systems into a giant botnet, which they used to launch DDoS attacks or rent the botnet to other users for the same purpose.
Investigators also said the three used the botnet for clickfraud, by using the routers to “click” on ads on websites that earned them revenue.
The botnet went undetected from late 2014 to mid-2016, carrying out attacks on a multitude of targets.
Things came crashing down after the Mirai botnet had been used to attack the blog of infosec journalist Brian Krebs, French hosting provider OVH, and managed DNS provider Dyn.
At the time, the attacks were some of the largest ISPs and DDoS mitigation providers had seen to date.
Even after the three released the source code of the original Mirai malware online in an attempt to muddle their tracks, authorities ended up tracking them down.
The FBI questioned Jha in January 2017 and filed charges a few months later in May 2017.
But in a sentencing memorandum, U.S. authorities said the three had been collaborating with the FBI since their guilty plea last December.
Jha, White, and Norman helped the FBI in several cybersecurity matters.
For their extensive work with authorities, the DoJ negotiated sentences that don’t include any prison time. Jha, White, and Norman will serve a five-year period of probation, 2,500 hours of community service, ordered to pay restitution in the amount of $127,000, and forfeited “significant amounts” of cryptocurrency seized during the investigation.
As part of the lighter sentence, the three must also continue their work with the FBI and the cybersecurity industry.
“The perpetrators count on being technologically one step ahead of law enforcement officials,” said said U.S. Attorney Bryan Schroder. “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.”