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6/4/2009
07:58 PM
Graham Cluley
Graham Cluley
Security Insights
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Suspected Child Porn Hub Taken Offline

Internet service provider Pricewert -- which trades under names such as 3FN and APS Telecom -- has been shut down and disconnected from cyberspace following allegations it was knowingly involved in major spam attacks, phishing campaigns, malware distribution, and child abuse.

Internet service provider Pricewert -- which trades under names such as 3FN and APS Telecom -- has been shut down and disconnected from cyberspace following allegations it was knowingly involved in major spam attacks, phishing campaigns, malware distribution, and child abuse.According to a press release from the FTC, Pricewert actively worked in cahoots with hackers, shielding its criminal clients by ignoring requests from the Internet security community asking for dangerous pages to be taken down.

The FTC further alleges that more than 4,500 different pieces of malware are controlled by command-and-control servers hosted by 3FN.

NASA computers are said to be among those targeted by attacks emanating from Pricewert's computers, with 22 reported separate attempts to infect the space agency.

Interestingly, the FTC has not yet been able to identify who was running Pricewert, whose assets have been frozen. Although the company claims to be based in the U.S., authorities believe that all of its employees are either in Estonia or the Ukraine.

The authorities should be applauded for taking action against a corner of the Internet that appears to have had no qualms about spreading misery through any means possible -- as long as it made them money.

This case still has to go to court, and prosecutors will have to prove their case; to be sure, many on the IT security scene will watch with interest to see if any impact on existing botnets and spam campaigns results.

My feeling is we won't see a dramatic slide in the levels of spam like we did last November, when infamous ISP McColo was ripped off the Internet and unsolicited email plummeted by 75 percent (for a while, at least).

Chances are the criminals will simply find move their operations elsewhere. But the shutdown is still a very positive step; anything we can do to disrupt the computer underground's activities has to be good for all of us.

Graham Cluley is senior technology consultant at Sophos, and has been working in the computer security field since the early 1990s. When he's not updating his other blog on the Sophos website you can find him on Twitter at @gcluley. Special to Dark Reading.

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Christian Bryant
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Christian Bryant,
User Rank: Ninja
6/13/2014 | 3:28:38 PM
re: Suspected Child Porn Hub Taken Offline
@StygianAgenda

 I couldn't agree with you more.  And I also feel it is our responsibility as denizens of that "underground" to keep watch, to be our "brother's keeper".  Imagine how many hackers knew about the activities documented here, or had knowledge of the possibility of them, and yet did nothing to tip someone off about it.  As hacktivists, it is a duty to protect those who have no defense, and get rid of the bad fruit.  As I've noted before hacker culture often is more effective at dealing with issues like this than law enforcement or government agencies ever will be.  We simply need to ability to do it without fear of repercussions...
StygianAgenda
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StygianAgenda,
User Rank: Strategist
4/16/2013 | 2:14:25 PM
re: Suspected Child Porn Hub Taken Offline
<quote>"Chances are the criminals will simply find move their operations elsewhere. But the shutdown is still a very positive step; anything we can do to disrupt the computer underground's activities has to be good for all of us."</quote>

While you're not wrong about the fact that criminals will simply move their ops elsewhere, and the shutdown of "Pricewert" *is* without a doubt a good thing, I take issue with your statement regarding "anything we can do to disrupt the computer underground's activities has to be good for all of us".-á

I couldn't disagree more. -áThe so-called "computer underground", as you put it, is the epicenter of all cyber defense, as well as cyber offense. -áMany of the most accomplished ethical hackers worldwide... those of us who make our careers by securing enterprise networks, got their start in the DarkNets, which is the core of the so-called "computer underground".

The DarkNets... or as you eloquently referred to them as the "computer underground", are populated by denizens ranging from hackers associated with Anonymous, LulzSec, as well as civilian law enforcement, military network security, and ethical hackers of many varying backgrounds. -áAs an ethical hacking student, there's no better place to get an education in 'what's really going on' than in the DarkNets. -áSo, your supposition that disrupting the "computer underground" is a good thing, is naive at best, and a heinous lie / misinformation at worst. -á

With Tor, Freenet, I2P and several other DarkNet client/server-ware being open source, it's now impossible to stop this movement, especially in consideration of the fact that an instance of the Tor engine can be installed on several different embedded platforms (such as Raspberry Pi) and made into what is now referred to as a ShadowNet, which is basically an anonymized, encrypted DarkNet relay/entry-node/exit-node that can be combined with solar power and be-áresilient-áto being taken down, because these nodes can be attached to a telephone pole, ceiling tile, or any other place one can think of. -á

What we have here is a "chicken or the egg" situation, where commodity hardware is being used for various, sometimes highly illegal purposes, to create a network that cannot be taken offline because the hardware cannot be located by anyone other than the person that has deployed it, or anyone that has been directly informed of the location. -áSome of these nodes have been reported to be used to attach to unsecured WiFi, or hacked WiFi systems, and since all traffic to or from these nodes is randomly bouncing around the planet, it's (nearly) impossible to pin down exactly where one is deployed. -áWithout those of us that learn from the DarkNet security communities, there would be no real defense against these next generation threats whatsoever. -á

Imagine for a moment that you went to work for an intelligence agency as a field operative. -áHow far do you think you would get using nothing but officially sanctioned training? -áNot very far at all, I'd bet, because when you're dealing the world "as it really is", there's no manual, it's gritting, dirty, sometimes bloody, and yes... for a large part, underground. -áTo get an idea of the truth of this, read into both sides of "#OP-DarkNet", both from the perspective of Anonymous, and from the perspective of the pedo-site-OPs that have been their targets.... Anonymous has not been actually anywhere near as successful as they have claimed, and in many cases, the only way they've succeeded at all is not due to hacking techniques, or system-security weaknesses... it's most often due to the human element, and a bit of creative Open Source Intel Gathering techniques. -áSuccessful or not, compare their record against, say.. the US-DOJ who have stated to the Senate Judiciary Committee that "The Silk Road" is impossible to take down, and it's easy to see where they've gotten a lot farther in less time... all thanks to ... ((insert drum roll))... -á"The Computer Underground", as you called it.

Maybe I should be writing for DarkReading.
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