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ISP shuttered for hosting 'witches' brew' of spam, child porn

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A federal judge has permanently pulled the plug on a California web hosting provider accused of harboring a "witches' brew" of pernicious content on behalf of child pornographers, spammers, and malware purveyors.

San Jose, California–based 3FN.net, which also operated under the name Pricewert, was also ordered to liquidate all assets and surrender more than $1m in illegal profits. The ruling by US District Judge Ronald M. Whyte was in response to a complaint filed in June in which Federal Trade Commission lawyers portrayed 3FN as a haven for some of the internet's most objectionable content.

FTC attorneys cited a mountain of evidence to support their claims, including instant message transcripts from high-level 3FN employees and logs from NASA servers that showed attacks originating from IP addresses controlled by 3FN. They also submitted findings from computer-forensics expert Gary Warner of the University of Alabama at Birmingham, NASA's office of the inspector general, and researchers from Spamhaus and Symantec in proving the allegations.

"These experts had analyzed data derived from internet searches which establish that defendant, an internet service provider, was engaged in widespread illegal activity," Whyte wrote in his ruling, which was dated April 8 but not announced by the FTC until Wednesday.

The FTC's June 4 complaint wasn't made public until after authorities obtained a temporary restraining order shuttering the service. Attorneys sought the order in secret to prevent 3FN customers from destroying evidence or finding new hosts. After Max Christopher and other alleged Pricewert representatives failed to respond to the allegations in court, Whyte ruled that the order should become permanent.

The judge also ordered that all 3FN servers and other assets be sold and that $1.08m of the proceeds be paid to federal authorities. That amount was based on estimates Whyte called "conservative" that over a six-year span 3FN received $15,000 per month hosting illegal content. The amount could have been much higher had there been more evidence about 3FN's finances. ®

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