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Infamous hacker sentenced to over a year in prison after turning internet-linked devices into ‘zombie bots’

Infamous hacker sentenced to over a year in prison after turning internet-linked devices into ‘zombie bots’
A 22-year-old man from Washington state has been handed a 13-month prison sentence for developing, using and selling access to Internet of Things malware.

Kenneth Currin Schuchman pleaded guilty last September to violating the Computer Fraud & Abuse Act after selling DDoS botnets based on the Internet of Things (IoT) malware ‘Mirai’. 

Mirai infects IoT devices and turns them into a network of remote controlled “zombie bots.” In the simplest of terms, an IoT device is any technological device capable of connecting to the internet. 

This network of things is ever-increasing, and nowadays it isn’t uncommon for cars, fridges, and even toothbrushes to be connected.

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The horde of zombie bots created using malware is often called a botnet. These can be used to launch distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attacks which can overwhelm target servers via a deluge of internet traffic. 

The US Department of Justice said that Schuchman’s botnets – known as Satori, Okiru, Masuta and Tsunami – compromised hundreds of thousands of connected IoT devices worldwide.

Schuchman, or “Nexus” as he apparently liked to be called online, worked with co-conspirators dubbed “Vamp” and “Drake” to enhance the nefarious malware Mirai code.

After an initial arrest in August 2018, Schuchman continued to develop IoT bots whilst on supervised release, the DoJ said. His two co-conspirators were also charged for their role in developing the IoT-attacking botnets.

According to the International Data Corporation (IDC), there will be “41.6 billion connected IoT devices, or ‘things’, generating 79.4 zettabytes (ZB) of data in 2025.”

Experts have warned that the scope for doing harm in this new super-connected world should not be underestimated. Whether it be hackers taking control of self-driving cars with passengers inside, or the fridge spying on your family, new technologies clearly come with new risk.

Notably adept at discovering vulnerabilities in IoT devices, there is a history of so-called black-hat actors (nefarious hackers) being employed for their talents. 

David Warburton, senior threat research evangelist at application services company F5 Networks, has said that at his own organization a person like Schuchman would not be blacklisted from work. 

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Speaking to Raconteur last year, Warburton said that when his company hires contractors, it looks for people “with strong hands-on experience” – which does not rule out ex-criminals. While that may seem “counter-intuitive,” he said, they often have the know-how required to help plan and test cyber defenses. 

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