Gov't slams door on 'rogue' Internet provider, alleging criminal activity

Kyle Alcott/Dallas Morning News/KRT
On Thursday, the Federal Trade Commission won an injunction shutting down an Internet Service Provider that the FTC says "recruits, knowingly hosts, and actively participates in the distribution of spam, child pornography, and other harmful electronic content."

The Federal Trade Commission today won an temporary order against Pricewert LLC, a notorious Internet Service Provider that has been linked to the distribution of child pornography and spam. In a lengthy press release, the FTC alleged that Pricewert had "advertised its services in the darkest corners of the Internet, including a forum established to facilitate communication between criminals."

"Pricewert [has] actively 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," a spokesperson for the FTC wrote today.

A man answered the phone at Pricewert's San Jose headquarters, but sounding tired, refused to comment.

Pricewert, a California-based company, had previously conducted operations under several names, including 3FN and APS Telecom. According to the FTC, the group "actively recruits and colludes with criminals seeking to distribute illegal, malicious, and harmful electronic content including child pornography, spyware, viruses, trojan horses, phishing, botnet command and control servers, and pornography featuring violence, bestiality, and incest."

Effective today, the FTC has disconnected Pricewert's servers from the Internet and frozen the company's assets. A court will hold a preliminary injunction hearing on June 15, the FTC said.

"This is great news, and one we can hope signals the beginning of a trend," Erik Larkin wrote on PC World's website. "This kind of action won't by itself stop Internet crime, but identifying and taking down these black-market service providers does much more than attempting to identify and fight individual pieces of malware. After last fall's takedown of the McColo ISP, spam levels dropped precipitously. The bad guys eventually regrouped, but the takedown had a noticeable impact."

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