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Why the FBI says restarting your router could weaken a global malware attack

The Federal Bureau of Investigation is asking everyone with a home router to do a small thing: Turn your router off and then on again.

The agency issued a warning On Friday, netizens and small business owners are being asked to restart their routers to fend off malicious malware called VPN filters. The malware infects routers during the first phase of an attack, ultimately allowing hackers to control the devices connected to the Internet. The malware has been linked to a group believed to be in contact with the Russian military.

Research from Cisco security group Talos released last week estimates that 500,000 devices worldwide may be affected by malware Made by major manufacturers such as TP-Link, Netgear and Linksys. While the FBI recently seized a critical section of the network carrying out this attack, the agency recommends that everyone reset their router independently of the manufacturer to create a broader network.

It might not be that the router is simply pulled out of the socket much for your safety. But resetting the router puts that intricate malware back to level 1, said Ashley Stephenson of Corero Network Security. In its first phase, VPN Filter establishes a presence in one router, but needs to communicate with another part of the network to download the second stage of the attack.

Now the FBI has control over part of the network, Routers Trying to enter this second phase will send information to the agency instead of hackers, Stephenson said.

Simply pressing the power button without updating the router would put the users at risk, warned software experts. As a next step, they should download the latest firmware for their devices and change their password to protect themselves from infection.

Routers are often neglected – or even forgotten – technology in our homes. Once set up, they are rarely given a second thought. But they have increasingly become a hotbed for hackers who want to build massive networks of computers for control.

Several companies, such as Google, Eero and the security companies Norton and F-Secure, try to simplify routers and their security. However, most people just stick to their ISP's router or one they can find cheap online for $ 25 or $ 30, experts said.

Poor router security comes from a combination of factors, said Ben Herzberg, threat director at the security firm Imperva. Many people do not know how to access their router settings or check for software updates. And some manufacturers are slow to push security updates, he said, out of negligence or because their devices are so old that they can not easily be updated over the Internet.

Herzberg recommended anyone who has a router that is at least 15 years old to replace it with a newer device and that they regularly check for updates to guard against potential new attacks. And although a regular restart of the router is not always a necessary part of good safety hygiene, he considers it advisable to follow this time – considering the source.

"If the FBI says I should reset your router, I would reset my router," he said.

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