In October 2016, a massive cyberattack took down some of the biggest sites and services on the web, including Netflix, Spotify, Twitter, PayPal, and Slack, causing a blackout that affected most of the East Coast of the United States. The perpetrators behind this attack weren’t a group of experienced cybercriminals; they were three individuals, all in their teens or early 20s, who had created a powerful malware tool called Mirai. This tool was designed to take control of internet-connected smart home devices and use them like a massive zombie army to knock the internet’s most vital servers offline.
The scale and scope of the Mirai attack alarmed cybersecurity researchers and law enforcement agencies tasked with thwarting such attacks. It was a wake-up call for the security community, highlighting the vulnerabilities inherent in the growing network of internet-connected devices.
Years after the attack, the three creators of Mirai have finally come forward to tell their story. In a recent interview, WIRED senior writer Andy Greenberg discusses Mirai’s creation, how the code did its damage, and how the three hackers were eventually caught. The story also graces the cover of the next issue of WIRED magazine.
Andy Greenberg recommends reading his epic feature story titled “The Mirai Confessions: Three Young Hackers Who Built a Web-Killing Monster Finally Tell Their Story.” In addition to his recommended reading, Andy recommends the book, “Your Face Belongs to Us” by Kashmir Hill. Mike recommends getting a wreath for Christmas instead of chopping down a tree, and Lauren recommends Okinawan sweet potato haupia pie bars.
Andy Greenberg, @a_greenberg, and @agreenberg elsewhere, can be found on X, while Lauren Goode is @LaurenGoode, and Michael Calore is @snackfight. The show is produced by Boone Ashworth, @booneashworth, and the theme music is by Solar Keys.
If you’re interested in listening to the interview and want to subscribe for free to get every episode, you can do so through the various podcast apps available such as Podcasts, Overcast, Pocket Casts, Google Podcasts, and Spotify. A feed link is also available for those who need it.
The Mirai attack shed light on the vulnerabilities and security threats associated with the rapidly growing network of internet-connected devices, from smart home appliances to critical infrastructure. The attack was a reminder of the importance of securing these devices and the potential impact they can have on the broader internet ecosystem if manipulated by malicious actors.
The creators of Mirai have provided valuable insights into the world of cybercrime, the motivations behind their actions, and the lessons learned from this highly impactful attack. Their story serves as a cautionary tale for the cybersecurity community, highlighting the need for enhanced security measures to safeguard against similar attacks in the future.
As the internet of things continues to expand, the security implications of interconnected devices have become increasingly important. The Mirai attack represented a watershed moment in the cybersecurity landscape, prompting industry stakeholders to re-evaluate existing security protocols and develop more robust defenses against emerging cyber threats. The insights provided by the creators of Mirai can contribute to the ongoing dialogue surrounding cybersecurity and help shape strategies for addressing future challenges in the rapidly evolving digital landscape.