The FBI has interviewed a Rutgers University computer science student who has been identified by a well-known cyber security blogger as the likely author of the malicious code that caused a massive Internet disruption in October. The expert said the student also may be linked to repeated attacks on Rutgers’ computer system starting in late 2014.
While he says he does not know who may have actually launched the massive “denial of service” or DDoS attacks last fall, the security researcher said the coding language used and other anecdotal evidence seemed to point to the 20-year-old-student, Paras Jha, as an author of the malware used to shut down hundreds of computer servers.
The student’s father, Anand Jha, confirmed that federal investigators have questioned his son, but he adamantly denied he had any knowledge of the attacks or was involved in any way.
In an interview with NJ Advance Media at his Fanwood home, Anand Jha said his son is one of the principals at ProTraf, a company he said helps clients avoid online attacks. But he said his son had nothing to do with the attacks that caused widespread disruptions.
“I know what he is capable of,” Anand Jha said. “Nothing of the sort of what has been described here has happened.” He said the FBI has been in touch with his son more than once. Initially, the family believed authorities were trying to help their son, but they now believe the FBI is trying to build a case against him.
“It is tough. He is just a college kid who doesn’t know what is going on,” the father said. ‘The truth will come out.” Attorney Robert Stahl, a former assistant U.S. attorney who has been retained by the family, said the younger Jha has not been charged with any wrongdoing and was innocent. He said the focus on the student largely stemmed from the apparent findings of Brian Krebs, a former Washington Post reporter who writes a highly influential computer security blog.
“The Krebs alleged investigation makes several leaps of logic,” Stahl said. “We’ll be conducting our own investigation and are looking forward to clearing this young man’s name.”
A Rutgers spokeswoman, Karen Smith, said she could not comment on the status of the investigation.
“We continue to cooperate with all appropriate law enforcement authorities in connection with the ongoing investigation of the DDoS attacks,” Smith said. “This is a very serious matter and we will have no further comment while this matter is under investigation.”