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Your browser will redirect to your requested minecraft advertise shortly. Enter the characters you see below Sorry, we just need to make sure you’re not a robot. Get Our NewsletterWIRED’s biggest stories delivered to your inbox. 2016 came to a quiet conclusion Friday in an Anchorage courtroom, as three young American computer savants pleaded guilty to masterminding an unprecedented botnet—powered by unsecured internet-of-things devices like security cameras and wireless routers—that unleashed sweeping attacks on key internet services around the globe last fall.

Then, on a Friday afternoon in October 2016, the internet slowed or stopped for nearly the entire eastern United States, as the tech company Dyn, a key part of the internet’s backbone, came under a crippling assault. As the 2016 US presidential election drew near, fears began to mount that the so-called Mirai botnet might be the work of a nation-state practicing for an attack that would cripple the country as voters went to the polls. Originally, prosecutors say, the defendants hadn’t intended to bring down the internet—they had been trying to gain an advantage in the computer game Minecraft. FBI supervisory special agent Bill Walton.

Unraveling the whodunit of one of the internet’s biggest security scares of 2016 led the FBI through a strange journey into the underground DDoS market, the modern incarnation of an old neighborhood mafia-protection racket, where the very guys offering to help today might actually be the ones who attacked you yesterday. Then, once the FBI unraveled the case, they discovered that the perpetrators had already moved onto a new scheme—inventing a business model for online crime no one had ever seen before, and pointing to a new, looming botnet threat on the horizon. At the time, FBI special agent Elliott Peterson was part of a multinational investigative team trying to zero in on two teens running a DDoS attack-for-hire service known as vDOS. It was a major investigation—or at least it seemed so at the time. They didn’t realize the power they were unleashing.