FTC Shuts Down ISP Hosting Child Pornography, Other Malicious Content
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BALTIMORE — A rogue Internet service provider that knowingly recruits, hosts and distributes spam, child pornography and phishing sites has been shut down by a district court judge at the request of the Federal Trade Commission.
According to the FTC, the defendant, Pricewert LLC, which operates under a variety of names including 3FN and APS Telecom, actively recruited and conspired with criminals that distribute illegal, malicious and harmful electronic content.
After a 4-0 vote, the Commission authorized the complaint, which was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California, San Jose Division. The court issued a temporary restraining order to prohibit Pricewert’s operation and ordered its upstream Internet providers and data centers to cease providing service to it.
The FTC charged that the defendants’ actions caused substantial consumer injury and was an unfair practice, in violation of federal law.
The illicit content circulated includes child pornography, spyware, viruses, Trojan horses, phishing, botnet command and control servers, and pornography featuring violence, bestiality and incest.
The FTC said that the defendant advertised its services “in the darkest corners of the Internet,” which included a forum established specifically for communication between online criminals.
Pricewert is accused of hiding its criminal operation by shifting to different Internet protocol addresses to avoid detection and simply ignoring take-down requests, according to the complaint.
Pricewert also allegedly used Botnets, which are large networks of computers that have been compromised by the originator, known as a bot herder, which can be used to send spam.
According to the FTC, the defendant recruited bot herders and hosted the command-and-control servers, which relay commands from bot herders to the compromised computers. In transcripts of instant-message logs filed with the district court, the defendants’ senior employees discuss the configuration of botnets with bot herders.
Filings with the district court by the FTC allege that 3FN- hosted command-and-control servers control more than 4,500 malicious software programs. The 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.
The case was brought with assistance from NASA’s Office of Inspector General, Computer Crime Division; Gary Warner, director of research in computer forensics, University of Alabama at Birmingham; The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children; The Shadowserver Foundation; Symantec Corporation; and The Spamhaus Project.
A preliminary injunction hearing is set for June 15.