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We REALLY hope this is the beginning of a trend.

The U.S. Federal Trade Commission has taken down Northern California Internet Service Provider Pricewert LLC (also doing business as 3FN and APS Telecom) that has hosted alleged criminal sites engaged in the distribution of spam, child pornography, spyware and malware as well as the operation of botnet command and control servers.

According to some reports, as many as 15,000 sites used for criminal purposes were shut down by the action.

Sunbelt Software researchers say they have been tracking Pricewert servers hosting alleged exploits and porn dialers since 2004. Also, IP addresses registered to them were known to be hosting exploits and malware, including rogues, since that year.

The FTC said in their complaint, filed in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California, San Jose Division, that Pricewert advertised to a criminal clientele, then shielded their customers’ activities by ignoring take-down requests from the online security community or shifting the malicious sites to other IP addresses to help customers continue their activities.

The FTC filing is based on the commission’s belief that criminal activities have taken place and that the public interest would be served. A court must determine if any laws have been broken.

According to the FTC news release: “The court issued a temporary restraining order to prohibit Pricewert’s illegal activities and require its 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, 2009.”

Mark your calendars!

FTC news release here.

Tom Kelchner