Shut 'Em Down: FTC Alleges ISP Hosted 'Witches' Brew'

Spam Grrr The Federal Trade Commission has obtained a temporary restraining order against the Internet service provider Pricewert, alleged to have hosted "a witches' brew" of illegal material.

"Pricewert recruits and colludes with criminals seeking to distribute illegal, malicious and harmful electronic content via the Internet," the FTC alleged in legal papers filed last week in the U.S. District Court in San Jose. Among other activities, Pricewert allegedly helped operate botnets, which are used to send spam and distribute malware.

The agency said in its complaint that Pricewert -- also known as 3FN.net, Triple Fiber Network, APS Telecom and other aliases -- "is fully aware that it is hosting huge volumes of illegal, malicious, and harmful content" and that it protects clients by ignoring takedown requests or shifting clients to other Internet Protocol addresses. The company -- an Oregon corporation -- is actually run by people in Belize, according to the complaint. In addition to botnet control servers, Pricewert allegedly hosts unlawful material including child pornography, spyware, viruses, phishing-related sites and illegal online pharmacies.

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Last week, a judge issued a temporary order shutting down the company and freezing its assets. A preliminary hearing is scheduled for June 15.

A Pricewert spokesperson told Network World that the FTC was unfairly blaming the company for actions of third parties.

In the meantime, at least one security company says the move hasn't had any appreciable impact at all on overall spam volume, largely because companies involved in sending spam rely on multiple ISPs. "We haven't even seen a twitch since Pricewert was shut down," says Sam Masiello, vice president of information security at MX Logic.

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