Reboot Your Router to remove VPNFilter
Category : Blog
Router reboot to remove VPNFilter
Router is a networking device that forwards data packets between computer networks. Routers perform the traffic directing functions on the Internet. A data packet is typically forwarded from one router to another router through the networks that constitute an internetwork until it reaches its destination node.
After it was reported that the VPNFilter botnet consisting of over 500,000 routers and NAS devices was taken over by the US government, the FBI issued an advisory stating that users should reboot their routers in order to disrupt the malware.
Unfortunately, as shown by the five phone calls I received today, many people heard the reboot part, but did not read the rest of the recommendations of turning off remote administration, changing passwords, and upgrading to the latest firmware. One step that was not mentioned is the fact that the only way to truly remove VPNFilter is to reset the router to factory defaults.
What is VPNFilter?
VPNFilter is malware that targets routers and NAS devices in order to steal files, information, and examine network traffic as it flows through the device. When the malware is installed, it will consist of three different stages, with each stage performing specific functions.
Stage 1 is installed first and allows the malware to stay persistent even when the router is rebooted.
Stage 2 allows the attackers execute commands and steal data. This stage also contains a self-destruct ability that essentially makes the router, and thus your network connection, non-functional.
Stage 3 consists of various plugins that can be installed into the malware that allow it to perform different functionality such as sniff the network, monitor SCADA communication, and to communicate over TOR.
For this reason, the FBI has suggested that everyone reboot their router in order to disable Stage 2 and Stage 3 and to also allow the FBI to get a list of infected victims and the types of routers that are affected.
Routers that are known to be affected by VPNFilter
According to reports from Cisco, Symantec, and the Security Service of Ukraine, the affected routers are:
- Linksys E1200
- Linksys E2500
- LinkSys WRVS4400N
- Mikrotik RouterOS Versions for Cloud Core Routers: 1016, 1036, 1072
- Netgear DGN2200
- Netgear R6400
- Netgear R7000
- Netgear R8000
- Netgear WNR1000
- Netgear WNR2000
- QNAP TS251
- QNAP TS439 Pro
- Other QNAP NAS devices running QTS software;
- TP-Link R600VPN
While the above are the currently known routers that can be infected with VPNFilter, there is no guarantee that they are the only ones. Therefore, everyone should follow the below recommendations to harden and secure their routers regardless of the make and manufacturer.
Will rebooting the router really remove the VPNFilter infection?
The short answer is yes and no. Rebooting the router will unload the Stage 2 and Stage 3 components of VPNFilter, but Stage 1 will start again after the router reboots. So while the most malicious components will be disabled, VPNFilter will still be present on your device.
The only real way to fully remove this infection is to reset your router back to factory defaults, which will also reboot the router. Unfortunately, this process will require you to setup your router again, add an admin password, and setup any wireless networks that are configured.
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