Federal authorities seize the Internet domain by selling malware used to illegally control and steal data from victims’ computers

LOS ANGELES As part of an international law enforcement effort, federal authorities in Los Angeles this week seized an Internet domain used to sell computer malware used by cybercriminals to take control of infected computers and steal a wide range of information.

A seizure warrant approved by a US Magistrate Judge on March 3 and executed on Tuesday resulted in the seizure of www.worldwiredlabs.com, which offered the NetWire Remote Access Trojan (RAT), a sophisticated program capable of taking target and infect all major computer operating system. A RAT is a type of malware that enables covert surveillance, allowing a backdoor for administrative control and unlimited, unauthorized remote access to a victim’s computer, without or without the victim’s knowledge, according to court documents deposited in Los Angeles.

As part of this week’s law enforcement action, Croatian authorities on Tuesday arrested a Croatian national who was allegedly the website’s administrator. This defendant will be prosecuted by the Croatian authorities. In addition, law enforcement in Switzerland on Tuesday seized the computer server hosting the NetWire RAT infrastructure.

The FBI in Los Angeles in 2020 opened an investigation into worldwidelabs, the only known online distributor of NetWire. FBI undercover investigators created an account on the website, paid for a subscription plan, and built a custom instance of the NetWire RAT using the Products Builder tool, according to the affidavit supporting the seizure warrant.

While the website marketed NetWire as a legitimate commercial tool to maintain computer infrastructure, the affidavit states that NetWire is malware used for malicious purposes, the software has been advertised on hacking forums and numerous computer security companies and government agencies have documented cases of NetWire RAT being used in criminal activity.

Today’s action is a testament to the innovation and flexibility needed to fight cybercriminals who operate without borders, said US Attorney Martin Estrada. Our office will continue to build international alliances to protect our communities from cyber threats. Criminals have used NetWire on a global scale, and we’ve responded by dismantling the infrastructure that has caused untold damage to victims around the world.

By removing the Netwire RAT, the FBI had an impact on the criminal cyber ecosystem, said Donald Alway, acting deputy director of the FBI’s Los Angeles office. The global partnership that led to the arrest in Croatia also removed a popular tool used to hijack computers in order to perpetuate global fraud, data breaches, and network intrusions by threat groups and cybercriminals.

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This matter is a result of strong US law enforcement cooperation with Croatia and other global partners. The Los Angeles Field Office of the FBI; the Ministry of the Interior of Croatia, Directorate of the Criminal Police; Zurich Cantonal Police in Switzerland; Europol’s European Cybercrime Centre; and the Australian Federal Police led the investigation into the matter.

Assistant US Attorney Lisa Feldman of the Intellectual Property and Computer Crimes Branch and Maxwell Coll of the Forfeiture and Asset Recovery Branch were granted warrants to seize the Internet domain. The International Affairs Office of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division provided substantial assistance during the investigation.

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