In what might sound like the world’s worst internet joke that turned out to be terrifyingly real, the FBI has asked everyone – no, not just you but everyone – to restart their routers. Like, right now.
The request came via a public service announcement that was published late last week. An existing US Department of Justice press release was also updated along with a little explanation as to why.
According to the update, the FBI hopes that the restarts will help the government destroy a botnet before a known Russian hacking group, called Sofacy, is able to harden the malware’s defenses.
Now, we know what you’re thinking. How can a router restart, carried out by little old me, really help the FBI take down Russian hackers? Well, apparently it can.
As the FBI notes, restarting a router infected with the VPNFilter malware will destroy the part of it that is able to do all the nastiness that the hackers want, including spying on users. This will however leave the installation package alone, meaning it will eventually phone home and try to download a new payload. If the FBI is right, then it already owns the domain that the hackers were using for that payload, meaning the infected routers will reach out to the Department of Justice instead of the Russians.
Of course, a factory reset will kill the malware for good, but that’s no good to the FBI.
“Although devices will remain vulnerable to reinfection with the second stage malware while connected to the Internet, these efforts maximize opportunities to identify and remediate the infection worldwide in the time available before Sofacy actors learn of the vulnerability in their command-and-control infrastructure.”
Restart or factory reset notwithstanding, it might be worth checking for an updated firmware for your router forthwith.
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