router

Even if your internet is running smooth and speedy, you still need to restart your router. On May 25, the Federal Bureau of Investigation issued a public service announcement to everyone with a router in their home or office warning that an unidentified group of cybercriminals may have mounted a large-scale attack on networked devices across the globe.

The FBI advised people to reboot their routers to “temporarily disrupt” the malware that could be infecting your device. The government agency also recommended you make sure your device is fully updated, secured using a strong password, and is encrypted.

Here’s a breakdown of what the FBI said happened and how you can reboot or reset your router, just in case your network was compromised.

fbi public service announcement cybersecurity

Router Hack and FBI Warning Details

In its warning, the FBI said that the agency didn’t yet know how or where the initial infections began, but the scope of that attack has grown significantly. Hundreds of thousands of home and office routers have been infected with malware known as VPNFilter.

“The actors used VPNFilter malware to target small office and home office routers,” stated the announcement. “The malware is able to perform multiple functions, including possible information collection, device exploitation, and blocking network traffic.”

Cybersecurity firm Symantec recently published a list of devices that are known to be more vulnerable to this type of attack. It went on to say that most of the devices that are targeted are known to use default passwords or have not been updated to the latest version of its firmware.

Why Rebooting Your Router Thwarts Hackers

If you’ve ever had problems connecting to the internet and have called tech support, the person on the other end of the line likely had you unplug your router. Rebooting — or power-cycling — your router gives it a fresh start and is generally one of the first steps recommended when troubleshooting your network device.

The FBI states power-cycling could interrupt VPNFilter, though Symantec states that this type of attack can persist even after a reboot. If you own one of the devices that are known to be susceptible to VPNFilter, you might want to reset your router to factory settings. This will require you to set up your WiFi all over again, but better safe than sorry.

router reset button
Where the reset button is located on a Linksys router.

How to Reset Your Router to Factory Settings

  • Rebooting: Unplug your router from its power outlet, don’t just turn it off. Wait about thirty seconds before plugging it back in. Finally, give the device a couple of minutes to turn back on.
  • Reset: You’ll find a small button on the back of your device that is labeled “Reset.” Holding this down will remove all customizations including passwords, usernames, and security keys, effectively wiping everything other than the latest version of firmware from the device. This will restore your router to its factory settings. From there you’ll need to follow your router’s set up instructions or call your internet service provider for assistance to get back online.