FTC shuts down notorious Internet Service Provider

The Federal Trade Commission had a rogue Internet Service Provider that recruits, knowingly hosts, and actively participates in the distribution of spam, child pornography, and other harmful electronic junk shut down by a district court judge.

The FTC order shuts off  Pricewert LLC, which does business under a variety of names including Triple Fiber Network (3FN) and APS Telecom, a company it said actively recruit and collude with criminals seeking to distribute a whole host of nastiness including child pornography, spyware, viruses, trojan horses, phishing, botnet command and control servers, and pornography featuring violence, bestiality, and incest. The FTC said Pricewert advertised its services in the darkest corners of the Internet, including a forum established to facilitate communication between criminals.

The FTC also alleges that the defendant engaged in the deployment and operation of botnets.  Botnets can be used for a variety of illicit purposes, including sending spam and launching denial of service attacks. According to the FTC, the defendant recruited bot herders and hosted the command-and-control servers - the computers that relay commands from the bot herders to the compromised computers known as "zombie drones."

Transcripts of instant-message logs filed with the district court show the defendants' senior employees discussing the configuration of botnets with bot herders. And, in filings with the district court, the FTC said that more than 4,500 malicious software programs are controlled by command-and-control servers hosted by 3FN. This malware includes programs capable of keystroke logging, password stealing, and data stealing, programs with hidden backdoor remote control activity, and programs involved in spam distribution.

Pricewert, based in San Jose, California, shielded its criminal clientele by either ignoring take-down requests issued by the online security community or shifting its criminal elements to other Internet Protocol addresses it controlled to evade detection, the FTC said.

According to an IDG News Service report, Max Christopher, a representative of Pricewert, said Thursday the company would not have an immediate response to the FTC complaint. "We are a bit confused by the complaint," he said.

In an interview with The Washington Post's Security Fix, FTC Chairman Jonathan Leibowitz said the agency's action target's one of the Web's worst actors.

"Anything bad on the Internet, they were involved in it," Leibowitz said. "We're very proud, because in one fell swoop we've gone after a big facilitator of some of the utterly worst conduct."

The court issued a temporary restraining order to prohibit Pricewert's illegal activities and require its upstream Internet providers and data centers to cease providing services to Pricewert. The order also freezes Pricewert's assets. The court will hold a preliminary injunction hearing on June 15, 2009.

Pricewert's 3FN Web pages were down today.

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Copyright © 2009 IDG Communications, Inc.

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