For the first time ever, the Federal Trade Commission has sued and shut down an internet service provider it claimed was a “haven” for criminal activity ranging from identity theft to child pornography.

Moving with unusual speed thanks to a “parallel criminal investigation,” the FTC sought and was given a temporary restraining order by a federal judge that shut down the operations of San Jose ISP Pricewert before the company could respond; the judge also ordered anyone providing Pricewert with services like data storage or connectivity to halt those services immediately and without notice.

Although the ISP was based out of San Jose, the FTC said the company was incorporated in Oregon and listed Belize as its base, while all the employees it could track down worked from either Ukraine or Estonia. It also operated under the names and Triple Fiber Network, and apparently connected with clients through ads posted on Russian-language forums specializing in “identity theft and other crime.”

The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children has verified 500 complaints about child pornography sites hosted by 3FN since 2004, the FTC said, while spam tracker Spamhaus claimed the company ran at least 17 botnet “command and control” servers. “They are notorious,” FTC chairman Jon Leibowitz said yesterday. “Almost anything that you can find that harms consumers on the internet, this ISP was involved in.”

While some observers have suggested that the FTC could send a strong message by deputizing Steven Seagal and having him snap the necks of a few IT guys, the agency indicated that it would not pursue that course of action, opting instead to freeze Pricewert’s assets pending a preliminary injunction hearing scheduled for June 15.

Source: Financial Times

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