US law enforcement revealed several weeks ago that consumer routers all over the world had been infected with dangerous malware. Owners were advised to rest the devices, but that was only a temporary fix. Now, the news is even worse. The VPNFilter malware affects more device models than previously thought, and it has a previously unknown ability that could put you at risk online.
Security researchers have traced VPNFilter back to Fancy Bear, a hacking team backed by Russian intelligence. Fancy Bear is most famous for carrying out the spear phishing attack on Clinton advisor John Podesta that yielded thousands of private emails. The team’s current operation is much less focused, though. We already knew VPNFilter affected routers from Cisco/Linksys, MikroTik, NETGEAR, and TP-Link. The new wrinkle is there are even more models and manufacturers vulnerable to VPNFilter.
According to the latest report from Cisco Talos, additional models from Linksys, MicroTik, Netgear, and TP-Link are vulnerable to VPNFilter. Plus, devices from Asus, D-Link, Upvel, Huawei, and ZTE are on the list now. There are now dozens of models and as many as 500,000 individual routers infected with VPNFilter. You can restart them to clear the actively malicious packages, but they could just come back.
US law enforcement previously warned everyone to restart their routers to clear the malware, but that only cleared the second and third stages of VPNFilter. The first stage remained active, and that’s the piece that gives the hackers access to install the active second and third stages. Routers vulnerable to VPNFilter usually run older firmware with known security holes, and many of them don’t have updates available.
The only sure fix is a firmware update, and most routers don’t do that automatically even if patched firmware is available. You’ll definitely want to look into that, too. An active VPNFilter infection is even more dangerous than we thought. Researchers have discovered that VPNFilter can run a man-in-the-middle attack. That allows the hackers to intercept web traffic before it gets to you and change what you see or steal sensitive data like passwords. While researchers initially thought VPNFilter was intended mainly to run attacks on larger targets, it’s beginning to look more like the users themselves are the targets.
If you have one of the devices on the latest target list, it would be a good idea to trash it and get a new router. Unfortunately, many of the infected routers will continue to operate for years to come because most consumers simply aren’t paying attention.
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