Consumer Reports: Protect your router from Russia-linked malware

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- Malware believed to be linked to Russia has been targeting Wi-Fi routers around the world. The FBI is urging people to take immediate action by resetting their routers.

But in a partnership with Consumer Reports, 7 On Your Side's Michael Finney 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.

RELATED: FBI urging public to reboot routers to stop Russian malware

The malware is known as VPNFilter 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 through it," said Tercius Bufete, Consumer Reports tech editor. "That means your Facebook messages, your banking information, your credit card information. All goes through your router. So if there's a breach, that's really bad."

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, 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. Additionally, go into the router's settings and turn off the remote access feature.

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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," Bufete said.

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.

RELATED: VIDEO: How to reboot your router to disable Russian-linked malware

Consumer Reports says if you want to be completely sure your system is clean, and no longer housing or 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, it will also remove your settings. Which means you have to set up your whole system again: passwords, wireless network and all.

Click here for a look at more stories by Michael Finney and 7 On Your Side.

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