In a world where malware and spam seems to ooze mysteriously from every pore of the Internet, the Russian Business Network, gave us something to point at and say: “that’s where a lot of it comes from”.

Perhaps that’s an exaggeration but now, apparently, it is out of operation, security watchers have noticed with some glee, many of its best-loved domains having disappeared from the world’s routing tables. But is everything as peaceful it seems?

Not at all, says a source at Spamhaus, an organisation that has become noted for its celebrated battles with the spam and e-criminal fraternity. “They haven’t gone anywhere. They have changed their identity,” the source says with ‘seen it all before’ weariness.

Apparently the malware-distributing hub is not so much gone as in relatively quiet repose while it hunts for ways of re-establishing its activities under a new guise. Or, put another way, chastened by huge volumes of bad publicity from big-shot newspapers such as the Washington Post, it is hiding out.

The source stresses that it is important to remember that the RBN is only the front window for criminality, and an enabler of even shadier criminal networks that lay beyond its web services. Think of it as a sort of ISP reseller for criminals who like using the Net for their activities, a boom industry in fact.

Even now, the network was looking for new hosting in Amsterdam, even as it hid behind an apparent but fictitious move to Taiwan that had some RBN-watchers fooled.

We report all this as with the qualification “alleged”, of course, even though the RBN has become by any standards pretty notorious.

Is any the world any safer with the RBN’s apparent demise? Perhaps temporarily, but few doubt it won’t somehow appear eventually with a new name, a laundered identity, and a new shop-front somewhere on the Net