The Federal Trade Commission has shut down an ISP that it claims is playing host to botnets, spammers, phishing websites, and even child porn. The company behind the ISP, Pricewert LLC, apparently does business under a variety of names, but the FTC claims that it "actively" recruits criminals in order to carry out illegal and malicious activity online. As a results, the FTC was able to obtain a temporary restraining order shutting down Pricewert, with a preliminary injunction hearing scheduled for June 15.
3FN and APS Telecom were just two of the names that Pricewert operated under, and the FTC claims that the company advertised its services "on the darkest corners of the Internet, including a forum established to facilitate communication between criminals." In addition to peddling malware and spyware, Pricewert served up porn featuring not only children, but violence, bestiality, and incest.
The FTC even claims to have IM logs showing Pricewert's senior employees discussing the configuration of botnets with "bot herders," helping the ISP to control more than 4,500 malicious programs. The company apparently made efforts to shield its clientele and activities by moving IP addresses frequently and by ignoring takedown requests. As a result of the company's illegal activities, the FTC charged Pricewert with the distribution of illegal, malicious, and harmful content.
By the looks of it, Pricewert's business was very similar to that of Atrivo, which was forced offline in the fall of 2008 after a report came out about the ISP's numerous illegal endeavors (though our readers noted that it didn't stay offline for long). Similarly, rogue ISP McColo was shut down in November for its shady spam dealings, resulting in a noticeable drop in overall spam levels for several months.
In addition to the temporary restraining order issued today against Pricewert, the US District Court for the North District of California ordered the ISP's data centers to cease providing services to the company. A judge will decide in just over a week whether further action is necessary, but given the available evidence, it seems more likely than not that the FTC will get its wish and Pricewert will be shut down for good. Whether the ISP's admins can be prevented from scurrying off to darker corners of the Internet is another question.