An Internet service provider (ISP) that was widely used by hackers and criminals for the exchange of data and malware is no longer operating, observers say.
Atrivo, formerly known as Intercage, has been called "the U.S. RBN" -- a comparison to the Russian Business Network, which is one of the most notorious carriers of hacker data and exploits in the world. Such networks work much like other ISPs, but they do not filter out malware and other malicious traffic, which makes them attractive platforms for hosting malware or launching new exploits.
Yesterday, however, several observers reported that the Atrivo network is no longer operating. The service appears to have shut down, and attempts to contact its operators by email have received no reply, the observers say.
"I'd be interested to find out why they shut down," said Robert Graham, CEO and founder of Errata Security, a security research firm. "They've actually been down for a while. My guess would be either a network failure or they've been raided by somebody [in law enforcement]."
Graham said "a lot" of hackers had begun to concentrate on the Atrivo network. "It's sort of a word-of-mouth thing -- you ask others, 'where do you host your malware?', and pretty soon a lot of people are gravitating toward the same network," he says. There aren't many U.S.-based malware services, he says. "They tend to get shut down quickly here," he adds.
But whether it was shut down by other ISPs, law enforcement, or network failure, Atrivo's apparent demise probably won't have much long-term impact on the flow of malware or other exploits, Graham says. "I expect the people who were using Atrivo will just go elsewhere," he says. "It's like a gigantic game of whack-a-mole. You shut one down, and the [exploits] pop up elsewhere."
While many malware developers may move their exploits to non-U.S. networks, Graham says he's not sure we've heard the last of Atrivo. "It could easily pop up again somewhere else or in the U.S. under another name," he says. "These networks don't go away easily."
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