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MP3sparks.com downed by links to Russian cybercrime gang

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Exclusive The popular Russian digital music retailer MP3sparks.com has scored an own goal by doing business with a web host that has been linked to an infamous cybercrime syndicate. Many UK users have been frozen out of the site as a result.

Access to the site for customers of major UK ISPs including Virgin Media, Plusnet and Zen has been difficult since it switched web host on 28 December. All the ISPs are members of LINX, an exchange that connects them to the wider internet.

A section of internet backbone, owned by US-held Tier 1 provider Cogent, has been identified as the source of the block. The firm was unavailable for comment today, but a UK representative said our request for details on the embargo would be passed to executives.

A spokesman for Plusnet confirmed that Cogent applies an across-the-board ban on traffic from MP3sparks' new web host, AbdAllah Internet ("AbdAllah" hereafter). Plusnet rerouted its traffic last night so customers can access MP3sparks.

The development raises new questions about the integrity of the MP3sparks operation, which is no stranger to controversy.

AbdAllah is a shadowy Turkish outfit that has been repeatedly blacklisted for providing sanctuary to malware, fraud and phishing sites, and spam. It also has strong links with the Russian Business Network, a notorious group known for pumping the internet with child pornography and denial of service attacks, as well as malware, on behalf of anyone that will pay.

Security firms including Verisign and Symantec have slammed their criminal activities.

The Russian Business Network empire was highlighted by a Washington Post report in October last year.

In response to the exposé, the St Petersberg incarnation of the Russian Business Network was cut off the internet by its ISP C41, but security watchers noted that new tentacles were emerging in Taiwan and Turkey.

A traceroute on the MP3sparks domain reveals Turkish telco TurkTelekom as the "last hop". It acts as AbdAllah's primary upstream link to the internet, as C41 did for the original Russian Business Network servers.

Leading spam tracker Spamhaus has traced the links between AbdAllah and Russian cyber criminals. This entry in Spamhaus' Register Of Known Spam Operations database plots the evidence tieing AbdAllah to a drug spamming scam run by Leo Kuvayev, AKA Alex Rodriguez. Kuvayev is Spamhaus' public enemy number one.

However close or distant the relationship with the Russian gangs, Cogent and other carriers have judged that they should block AbdAllah traffic, even if it includes a popular music retailer.

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