Protect yourself from malware targeting wireless routers worldwide

Consumer Reports: Resetting your router is just the first step

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The FBI sent out a warning for you to immediately reset your wireless router after it was discovered malware, believed to be Russia-linked, is targeting Wi-Fi routers around the world. But, Consumer Reports says that reset is just the first step towards protecting your online privacy and security.

The malware has infected more than half-a-million routers, in at least 54 countries and the threat is potentially growing. It’s called VPN-Filter and even security experts cannot be sure who is vulnerable. But one thing is certain: Router security is more important than ever. 

“All the information from your computer, your devices, flows right thru it. That means your Facebook messages, your banking information, your credit card information. All goes thru your router. So if there’s a breach, that’s really bad,” explained Consumer Reports Tech Editor Tercius Bufete. 

Step 1

To fix the problem, the security team at Consumer Reports agrees with the FBI. Start by resetting your router.

  • Unplug it 
  • Wait 20 seconds or so
  • Start it up again 

Step 2

But Consumer Reports says don’t stop there. The next step is to reset your router’s administrative password, which is the password you use to log in to the router itself. Make it something strong.

Step 3

The third step is to go into the router’s settings and turn off the remote access feature. 

Step 4

And fourth, update your firmware. Unlike a laptop or a smartphone, most older routers don’t notify you if there’s an update available. So it’s really up to you to check, every three or four months, whether there’s an update available on your manufacturer’s website. 

Consumer Reports says if those steps are too much of a hassle, you can replace your old router with a new one that updates automatically. Routers from Netgear, Eero, Google, and Linksys all offer an option to take care of updates for you. A router with the latest updates is less vulnerable to malware. 

Only one sure fix: Factory reset

As the story is evolving, it’s becoming clearer every day that this malware is more pervasive and more capable of damage than anyone first realized. Consumer Reports says if you want to be completely sure your system is clean -- and no longer housing nor spreading the malware -- the best thing to do is a factory reset on your router.

This will revert it back to the way it was when it came from the factory. But while this will be removing both the malware and the settings it was relying on to operate, remember, it will also remove your settings, which means you have to set up your whole system again -- passwords, wireless network and all.