Manos Antonakakis, Georgia Institute of Technology; Tim April, Akamai; Michael Bailey, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign; Matt Bernhard, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor; Elie Bursztein, Google; Jaime Cochran, Cloudflare; Zakir Durumeric and J. Alex Halderman, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor; Luca Invernizzi, Google; Michalis Kallitsis, Merit Network, Inc.; Deepak Kumar, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign; Chaz Lever, Georgia Institute of Technology; Zane Ma and Joshua Mason, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign; Damian Menscher, Google; Chad Seaman, Akamai; Nick Sullivan, Cloudflare; Kurt Thomas, Google; Yi Zhou, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign
The Mirai botnet, composed primarily of embedded and IoT devices, took the Internet by storm in late 2016 when it overwhelmed several high-profile targets with massive distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attacks. In this paper, we provide a seven-month retrospective analysis of Mirai’s growth to a peak of 600k infections and a history of its DDoS victims. By combining a variety of measurement perspectives, we analyze how the botnet emerged, what classes of devices were affected, and how Mirai variants evolved and competed for vulnerable hosts. Our measurements serve as a lens into the fragile ecosystem of IoT devices. We argue that Mirai may represent a sea change in the evolutionary development of botnets—the simplicity through which devices were infected and its precipitous growth, demonstrate that novice malicious techniques can compromise enough low-end devices to threaten even some of the best-defended targets. To address this risk, we recommend technical and nontechnical interventions, as well as propose future research directions.
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