Federal Bureau of Investigation wants everyone to reboot their routers to avoid Russian-linked malware

A plugged in computer router

The FBI's Internet Crime Complaint Center is telling owners of small offices and home offices to reboot their routers.

The infected routers form a botnet - a collection of Internet-linked devices that are secretly controlled by a third party, often via a command and control center, or "botmaster", that acts as the brains of the operation. That group, also known as A.P.T. 28 and the Sofacy Group, is believed to be directed by Russia's military intelligence agency. That group, which is also known as APT 28 and Fancy Bear and believed to be directed by Russia's military intelligence agency, hacked the Democratic National Committee before the 2016 presidential election, according to US and European intelligence agencies.

The F.B.I. and cybersecurity researchers are calling the malware VPNFilter. The malware can potentially also collect information passing through the router.

VPNFilter malware was found in small office and home office routers.

Talos, the cyberthreat arm of networking giant Cisco, reported that VPNFilter's code overlaps with the BlackEnergy malware used in several major cyberattacks in Ukraine previous year. The announcement from the F.B.I. did not provide any details about where the criminals might be based and their motivations remain unknown.

"QNAP has been aware of the presence of VPNFilter since 2017 - and has addressed the issue with updates to the QTS operating system and the QNAP NAS Malware Remover application", QNAP said in the statement.

An FBI official said affected devices were likely purchased at electronic stores or online, though it is not ruling out routers provided by internet service companies. After a series of investigation with help from Cisco's Talos intelligence organization, the bureau determined that the routers infected were manufactured by Linksys, MikroTik, Netgear, and TP-Link. The web domain toknowall.com, which was a critical part of the malware's "command-and-control infrastructure", is now under F.B.I. control.

So far, it is known that over 500,000 devices have been infected, and the malware has managed to quickly spread to more than 54 countries. Turning the router on and off temporarily disrupts the malware and erases parts of it, though the router can be reinfected.

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