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FBI is asking everyone to reboot their internet routers, supposedly to stop a Russian malware attack

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The FBI wants everyone to reset their Internet routers - especially home users and small businesses. But why? The agency claims it's to ward off a malware attack. (farakos/Getty Images)

The FBI wants everyone to reboot their internet routers to help fend off a malware attack by a Russian hacking group called Sofacy.

Resetting the router may help prevent the hackers from being able to strengthen the malware’s defenses, the agency said through an announcement.

The attack is done through something known as a VPNFilter that targets small office or home office routers, according to the announcement. The malware can collect information, exploit devices and block network traffic.

How many people are affected?

“The size and scope of the infrastructure impacted by VPNFilter malware is significant,” the announcement states. “The malware targets routers produced by several manufacturers and network-attached storage devices by at least one manufacturer. The initial infection vector for this malware is currently unknown.”

The tech website CNET asks: "How would pressing a button on your router help, though?"

"According to the FBI, rebooting your router will destroy the part of the malware that can do nasty things like spy on your activities, while leaving the install package intact. And when that install package phones home to download the nasty part, the FBI will be able to trace that because the US government says it's seized a critical domain that the Russian hackers were allegedly using," the website explains.

The FBI told CNET that every person who owns a consumer or small business router is being asked to reset their devices. The reason? It is not yet clear how far the infection has spread.

Is this a permanent fix against the malware?

But even resetting the router may not completely eliminate the risk.

"Although devices will remain vulnerable to reinfection with the second stage malware while connected to the Internet, these efforts maximize opportunities to identify and 'remediate' the infection worldwide in the time available before Sofacy actors learn of the vulnerability in their command-and-control infrastructure," the FBI's release states.

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