Spam Drops Following Pricewert Shutdown

SAN JOSE, Calif. — In the wake of the Federal Trade Commission's shutdown of "rogue" Internet service provider Pricewert there's been a drop in spam levels, though not as much as perhaps some might have hoped for.

Computerworld reports spam dropped 15 percent since the FTC action last week. According to analyst Phil Hay with e-mail security firm Marshal8e6, the shift, while smaller then expected, was still noticeable.

Pricewert, which has also done business under the name 3FN, is charged with hosting botnets, spyware and malware as well as child porn sites, virus networks and phishing schemes. The company, which operated out of San Jose, Calif. though its owners are said to be in Belize, is also accused of being well-aware of those customer's illicit activities and also of soliciting such business.

Last week, the FTC was granted a temporary restraining order in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California to take down Pricewert, which "actively 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 in a statement.

The ISP has claimed it's not responsible for the alleged criminal activities of "bad customers." 

According to IDG News Service, the Pricewert server network allegedly hosted a computer control system to infect networks with the Cutwail Trojan program (aka Pushdo), which causes machines to spew out spam.

Marshal8e6 said Pricewert was responsible for 30 percent of the spam it regularly tracks. Also reporting in was Cisco Systems, which said spam levels dropped 30 percent at the end of last week following the Pricewert takedown, then rose back up Sunday and Monday. This is being attributed to Pricewert's alleged criminal clients being prepared to switch to other hosting options.

In comparison to last November's shutdown of  notorious spam issuer McColo, which saw a marked spam drop 50 percent, this drop hasn't been as large because the crooks saw it coming. 

"They were ready for the takedown," said Richard Cox, chief information officer of anti-spam firm Spamhaus. "We've seen the backups pop up and have to get taken down and so on."