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Former Rutgers Student Pleads Guilty After Historic Internet Outage

Paras Jha helped create the Mirai Botnet, which was used to crash the Rutgers University computer network, among thousands of others.

A former Rutgers University student entered a guilty plea Wednesday for his role in a hack that created global website outages last year.

Paras Jha, 21, pleaded guilty in federal court for helping create the code for the Mirai Botnet virus, which caused one of the worst internet outages in history around October 2016.

“Paras Jha is a brilliant young man whose intellect and technical skills far exceeded his emotional maturity,” Jha’s attorney, Robert Stahl, said following the plea.

Jha, who currently lives in Fanwood, New Jersey with his parents, was a computer science major at Rutgers for two years before the Mirai attacks crashed websites around the world.

Rutgers’ computer network was repeatedly crashed between 2014 and 2016, knocking tens of thousands of Rutgers students, staff and faculty off the internet. As Rutgers officials tried to restore their internet network in 2015, Jha repeatedly disabled it while taunting school officials using the Twitter account “Exfocus”, reports nj.com.

New Jersey acting U.S. Attorney William Fitzpatrick said the attacks cost Rutgers somewhere between $3.5 million and $9.5 million. The school has committed to spend at least $3 million to improve their network’s cybersecurity on campus. Officials later cited the cybersecurity investment as one of the reasons they increased tuition for students the following year.

The Mirai bonnet was a Distributed Denial of Service, or DDoS, attack which leveraged hundreds of thousands of internet connected devices like routers, cameras and webcams to attack networks around the world.

Stahl said Jha has taken responsibility for what he did and has apologized for his actions.

Jha faces up to ten years in prison and a fine of at least $250,000, although the fine could be much more than that. Jha’s prison time will likely be lessened under the plea agreement he reached.

Josiah White and Dalton Norman were Jha’s co-conspirators and also admitted to one count of conspiracy as part of their plea agreements.

About the Author

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Zach Winn is a journalist living in the Boston area. He was previously a reporter for Wicked Local and graduated from Keene State College in 2014, earning a Bachelor’s Degree in journalism and minoring in political science.

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