Consumer Reports: WiFi router safety and security

PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) -- You might have heard about the malware, believed to be Russia-linked, that is targeting WiFi routers around the world. The FBI is urging people to take immediate action by re-setting their routers.

But Consumer Reports says that's 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. 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," warns Tercius Bufete, Consumer Reports Tech Editor.

To fix the problem, the security team at Consumer Reports agrees with the Feds -- start by resetting your router. Unplug it, wait 20 seconds or so -- and start it up again. But Consumer Reports says don't stop there.

It's also smart to reset your router's administrative password - the password you use to log in to the router itself. Make it something strong. Also, go into the router's settings and turn off the remote access feature.

And then, 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," said Bufete.

Too much of a hassle? 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.

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.

But while this will be removing both the malware and the settings it was relying on to operate - it will also remove your settings, which means you have to set-up your whole system again: passwords, wireless network and all.


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