Court shuts down 'rogue' ISP after FTC complaint

A U.S. judge has ordered that an Internet service provider be shut down after the U.S. Federal Trade Commission complained that the company recruits and hosts spammers, child pornographers and other criminals.

In a rare move, the upstream providers and data centers for ISP Pricewert -- doing business under several names, including 3FN and APS Telecom -- have disconnected its servers from the Internet, the FTC announced Thursday. The FTC filed a complaint against Pricewert Monday in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California, and the court issued a temporary restraining order Tuesday.

Pricewert had actively recruited people seeking to distribute illegal, malicious and harmful Internet content, including spyware, viruses, Trojan horses, phishing schemes, botnet servers and pornography featuring children, bestiality and incest, the FTC said. The ISP advertised it services in the "darkest corners of the Internet," including a forum established to help criminals communicate with each other, the FTC alleged.

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.

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.

Pricewert's 3FN Web pages were down Thursday.

The company's distribution of illegal and malicious content, as well as its deployment of botnets that compromised thousands of computers, caused substantial problems for Internet users, the FTC alleged.

The court issued a temporary restraining order to prohibit the alleged illegal activities and require Pricewert's 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.

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