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Convicted hackers sentenced to work for FBI?

THE THREE COLLEGE-AGE defendants behind the the Mirai botnet—an online tool that wreaked destruction across the internet in the fall of 2016 with powerful distributed denial of service attacks—will stand in an Alaska courtroom Tuesday and ask for a novel ruling from a federal judge: They hope to be sentenced to work for the FBI.

Josiah White, Paras Jha, and Dalton Norman, who were all between 18 and 20 years old when they built and launched Mirai, pleaded guilty last December to creating the malware. Mirai, which hijacked hundreds of thousands of internet-of-things devices and united them as a digital army, began as a way to attack rival Minecraft videogame hosts, but it evolved into an online tsunami of nefarious traffic that knocked entire web-hosting companies offline. At the time, the attacks raised fears amid a presidential election targeted online by Russia that an unknown adversary was preparing to lay waste to the internet.

The creators, panicking as they realized their invention was far more powerful than they had imagined, released the code—a common tactic by hackers to ensure that if and when authorities catch up to them, they don’t possess any code that isn’t publicly known, which would help finger them as the inventors. That release in turn led to attacks by others throughout the fall, including one that made much of the internet unusable on the East Coast on an October Friday.

According to court documents filed in advance of Tuesday’s appearance, the US government is recommending that each of the trio be sentenced to five years probation and 2,500 hours of community service.        Continue Reading