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'Malware-friendly' Intercage gets PIE in the face

Net provider goes dark after all

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Updated California-based network provider Intercage has gone completely offline following weeks of scathing criticism that it hosts an inordinate number of sites engaged in phishing, malware propagation, and other illegal activities.

Pacific Internet Exchange, which only began providing upstream service to Intercage in the last week or so, pulled the plug on Saturday night, according to someone who answered PIE's phone and would identify himself only by the first name of Brian. He refused to say why PIE had terminated service.

It's a safe bet that PIE's move was in response to recent efforts to isolate Intercage following a report that it enables a rogue's gallery of customers to punt spam, malware, and online (illegal) pharmaceuticals. The report so tarnished Intercage's already struggling reputation that both of its longterm providers canceled service. Intercage would have gone dark then had it not been for PIE, which stepped in at the 11th hour.

According to an email sent last week by Intercage president and owner Emil Kacperski, PIE was immediately punished for its actions. Within a few days of taking Intercage on, a block of more than 1,000 IP addresses belonging to PIE were added to the Spamhaus block list. On Sunday, within minutes of learning PIE had pulled the plug on Intercage, Spamhaus reduced the block to a "single, token IP," said Spamhaus CIO Richard Cox. (The single IP address was removed on Monday.)

Cox, who contacted El Reg shortly after this article was published, said Spamhaus's deicsion to the block PIE IP addresses was not taken lightly.

"We did have an extensive discussion with the director of PIE to explain the problem, to show him the evidence and to give him a chance to handle it his way," Cox said "It was only when we got a blanket refusal couched in such terms that suggests that he had some deal in place that we didn't know about that made us feel that we had no alternative but to regard his network as a spam-friendly network."

An outgoing message on Kacperski's voice mail apologized for the outage and said company officials were "trying to get this resolved as soon as possible."

Volunteers active in ridding the internet of abusive sites celebrated the take down of Intercage, which has also gone under the name Atrivo.

"This is an excellent example of community effort involving a wide cross section of anti-spammers, malware, and botnet researchers, journalists, and Internet network operators," an entry on the Russian Business Network blog stated. The entry included a photo of mock tombstone bearing the epitaph "RIP Atrivo. Here lies RBN USA?"

The latest round of problems for Intercage began after a white hat outfit known as HostExploit issued a report that took a random sampling of a random sampling of 2,600 addresses hosted by Intercage. The addresses contained 7,340 malicious web links, 910 infected websites, 310 malicious binaries, and 113 botnet command and control servers, according to the report (PDF).

Intercage's demise is a major victory for people in security circles, who have long argued that Kacperski turns a blind eye to the abuse carried out on his network. Free speech advocates aren't quite so sanguine. They worry the current informal and unregulated take-down process could eventually be co-opted by copyright owners or even repressive governments to shut down websites they don't like.

Kacperski has said Intercage employees promptly remove abusive sites that are referred to its abuse department, but says they receive few reports. ®

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