Mirai Creators Plead Guilty as More Details About IoT Botnet Emerge

Today’s topics include guilty pleas by the creators of the Mirai IoT botnet; Apple’s release of the updated iMac Pro; Microsoft starting the transition from Skype for Business to Microsoft Teams; and Google releasing details on its cloud data encryption measures.

On Dec. 5, Paras Jha, Josiah White and Dalton Norman pleaded guilty for their roles in the Mirai internet of things botnet cyber-attacks, according to Department of Justice documents unsealed on Dec. 12.

Mirai comprised 300,000 IoT devices infected with malicious code in July 2016 that enabled the botnet to launch distributed denial-of-service attacks. Mirai was able to conduct attacks against entire ranges of IP addresses. As such, a victim's entire network would be affected by an attack.

The Mirai botnet became publicly known in September 2016, when it was used to attack security blogger Brian Krebs and internet service provider OVH. Mirai was also behind a massive DDoS attack against DynDNS in October 2016 that caused outages across the internet.

Apple released on Dec. 14 its most powerful iMac Pro yet. The updated machine, which starts at $4,999, is available in a wide range of configurations, with 8-, 10- or 18-core Intel Xenon processors, up to 128GB of memory and solid-state drive storage of up to 4TB.

The more powerful iMac Pro includes Turbo Boost speeds of up to 4.5GHz and offers multicore processing for a wide variety of tasks, including rendering files, editing 4K video, creating real-time audio effects and compiling code.

Also included in the new machine is the Radeon Pro Vega 56 video card, which Apple says is more than three times faster than any previous iMac GPU. The video card will provide higher frame rates for virtual reality, real-time 3D rendering and improved special effects. The base system memory configuration starts at 32GB, but is also available with 64GB or 128GB of memory.

With the addition of new calling capabilities on Dec. 13, Microsoft Teams has taken the first steps in becoming the Skype for Business replacement, which Microsoft promised during its Ignite conference in September. Teams is Microsoft’s chat-based collaboration tool for workgroups, similar to the popular Slack app used by many software developers and cloud-native startups.

In addition to chat, which users can spice up with emojis and animated GIFs, Teams also provides users with ways to share files and work collaboratively on Office content.

Like Slack, Teams integrates with third-party apps like Asana, GitHub, Trello and many more, allowing users to consult with colleagues or provide status updates while working in those apps. Now, users can also add phone calls to the mix with full featured dialog capabilities.

Google Dec. 13 released two whitepapers describing the measures the company takes to protect data in transit from customer networks to the Google Cloud and then internally on its network.

One of the whitepapers describes Google’s Application Layer Transport Security system, which is similar to the industry standard Transport Layer Security protocol that many organizations use to protect data in transit on the internet. ALTS uses mutual authentication and encryption to protect all data and communications between Google's internal services and data centers.

The second whitepaper reiterated Google's measures for encrypting and authenticating in transit customer data. All customer data, for instance, is encrypted by default using HTTPS whenever a user connects to Google's cloud. By default, Google also authenticates and encrypts all data at one or more network layers whenever data moves outside a network that is directly controlled by or operated on behalf of Google.