If you ignored FBI advice to reboot your router, don’t. It’s already a massive problem.

Common routers include devices made by Netgear and Linksys; this is a major malware outbreak.

The seal of the F.B.I. hangs in the Flag Room at the bureau's headquaters March 9, 2007 in Washington, DC. (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images))
The seal of the F.B.I. hangs in the Flag Room at the bureau's headquaters March 9, 2007 in Washington, DC. (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images))

There’s no other way to say it: Walk over to your cable or DSL router right now, and disconnect the power. When it comes back on, you’ve done a good thing for the world — and you and your coworkers, for that matter.


According to the FBI, foreign “cyber criminals” have compromised over 500,000 network routers in homes and small offices around the world. And they’re asking everyone who uses a router to connect to the Internet (basically, everyone except those who are hard-wired and those using a smart phone) to reboot. Now.

What they’re using is something called “VPNFilter” and it’s a particularly insidious infection that, according to the FBI, can “ … perform multiple functions, including possible information collection, device exploitation, and blocking network traffic.”

The motives of these hackers are not yet clear, but security company Talos has indicated it can collect files, data such a credit card info and other personal information that you’d typically type into a browser or tablet, and more. It has at least 3 stages, and likely more that haven’t been discovered yet. Each requires the previous stage to be in place in order to function, and as of right now, stage 2 and higher are short-circuited by a reboot of the device. 

Image by Talos.

"The size and scope of the infrastructure by VPNFilter malware is significant,” the FBI added. It also states that the malware can render your device inoperable, so we recommend you reset your router no matter its model.

Some of the most common devices affected are made by Linksys, MikroTik, Netgear, and TP-Link, but there are more.

Here are the routers affected, according to Tom's Guide:

"Cisco Talos listed the definitively affected routers as the

  • Linksys E1200, E2500 and WRVS4400N
  • Netgear DGN2200, R6400, R7000R8000, WNR1000 and WNR2000
  • TP-Link TL-R600VPN SafeStream VPN router 
  • MicroTik Cloud Core routers, mainly used by enterprises, may be affected if they run versions 1016, 1036 or 1072 of the MicroTik RouterOS

Cisco Talos found that two QNAP networked-attached-storage (NAS) drives, the TS-251 and TS-439 Pro, were also affected by VPNFilter."

But also according to Tom's Guide, there may be a lot more models affected eventually. 

While a true infection will require more technical knowledge to clean (by things like disabling remote management settings, changing passwords and replacing them with more secure ones, and upgrading router firmware) this reboot measure will at least temporarily disrupt the malware, and help identify devices that are compromised. (And a hint: all devices such as cable modems and network routers have a default password, usually “admin,” “password,” or other such easily-guessed words. Change that if you can.)

So what are you waiting for?

And here's Marc Goodman with some scary possibilities that hackers will be taking on, if they're not already:

A landslide is imminent and so is its tsunami

An open letter predicts that a massive wall of rock is about to plunge into Barry Arm Fjord in Alaska.

Image source: Christian Zimmerman/USGS/Big Think
Surprising Science
  • A remote area visited by tourists and cruises, and home to fishing villages, is about to be visited by a devastating tsunami.
  • A wall of rock exposed by a receding glacier is about crash into the waters below.
  • Glaciers hold such areas together — and when they're gone, bad stuff can be left behind.

The Barry Glacier gives its name to Alaska's Barry Arm Fjord, and a new open letter forecasts trouble ahead.

Thanks to global warming, the glacier has been retreating, so far removing two-thirds of its support for a steep mile-long slope, or scarp, containing perhaps 500 million cubic meters of material. (Think the Hoover Dam times several hundred.) The slope has been moving slowly since 1957, but scientists say it's become an avalanche waiting to happen, maybe within the next year, and likely within 20. When it does come crashing down into the fjord, it could set in motion a frightening tsunami overwhelming the fjord's normally peaceful waters .

"It could happen anytime, but the risk just goes way up as this glacier recedes," says hydrologist Anna Liljedahl of Woods Hole, one of the signatories to the letter.

The Barry Arm Fjord

Camping on the fjord's Black Sand Beach

Image source: Matt Zimmerman

The Barry Arm Fjord is a stretch of water between the Harriman Fjord and the Port Wills Fjord, located at the northwest corner of the well-known Prince William Sound. It's a beautiful area, home to a few hundred people supporting the local fishing industry, and it's also a popular destination for tourists — its Black Sand Beach is one of Alaska's most scenic — and cruise ships.

Not Alaska’s first watery rodeo, but likely the biggest

Image source: whrc.org

There have been at least two similar events in the state's recent history, though not on such a massive scale. On July 9, 1958, an earthquake nearby caused 40 million cubic yards of rock to suddenly slide 2,000 feet down into Lituya Bay, producing a tsunami whose peak waves reportedly reached 1,720 feet in height. By the time the wall of water reached the mouth of the bay, it was still 75 feet high. At Taan Fjord in 2015, a landslide caused a tsunami that crested at 600 feet. Both of these events thankfully occurred in sparsely populated areas, so few fatalities occurred.

The Barry Arm event will be larger than either of these by far.

"This is an enormous slope — the mass that could fail weighs over a billion tonnes," said geologist Dave Petley, speaking to Earther. "The internal structure of that rock mass, which will determine whether it collapses, is very complex. At the moment we don't know enough about it to be able to forecast its future behavior."

Outside of Alaska, on the west coast of Greenland, a landslide-produced tsunami towered 300 feet high, obliterating a fishing village in its path.

What the letter predicts for Barry Arm Fjord

Moving slowly at first...

Image source: whrc.org

"The effects would be especially severe near where the landslide enters the water at the head of Barry Arm. Additionally, areas of shallow water, or low-lying land near the shore, would be in danger even further from the source. A minor failure may not produce significant impacts beyond the inner parts of the fiord, while a complete failure could be destructive throughout Barry Arm, Harriman Fiord, and parts of Port Wells. Our initial results show complex impacts further from the landslide than Barry Arm, with over 30 foot waves in some distant bays, including Whittier."

The discovery of the impeding landslide began with an observation by the sister of geologist Hig Higman of Ground Truth, an organization in Seldovia, Alaska. Artist Valisa Higman was vacationing in the area and sent her brother some photos of worrying fractures she noticed in the slope, taken while she was on a boat cruising the fjord.

Higman confirmed his sister's hunch via available satellite imagery and, digging deeper, found that between 2009 and 2015 the slope had moved 600 feet downhill, leaving a prominent scar.

Ohio State's Chunli Dai unearthed a connection between the movement and the receding of the Barry Glacier. Comparison of the Barry Arm slope with other similar areas, combined with computer modeling of the possible resulting tsunamis, led to the publication of the group's letter.

While the full group of signatories from 14 organizations and institutions has only been working on the situation for a month, the implications were immediately clear. The signers include experts from Ohio State University, the University of Southern California, and the Anchorage and Fairbanks campuses of the University of Alaska.

Once informed of the open letter's contents, the Alaska's Department of Natural Resources immediately released a warning that "an increasingly likely landslide could generate a wave with devastating effects on fishermen and recreationalists."

How do you prepare for something like this?

Image source: whrc.org

The obvious question is what can be done to prepare for the landslide and tsunami? For one thing, there's more to understand about the upcoming event, and the researchers lay out their plan in the letter:

"To inform and refine hazard mitigation efforts, we would like to pursue several lines of investigation: Detect changes in the slope that might forewarn of a landslide, better understand what could trigger a landslide, and refine tsunami model projections. By mapping the landslide and nearby terrain, both above and below sea level, we can more accurately determine the basic physical dimensions of the landslide. This can be paired with GPS and seismic measurements made over time to see how the slope responds to changes in the glacier and to events like rainstorms and earthquakes. Field and satellite data can support near-real time hazard monitoring, while computer models of landslide and tsunami scenarios can help identify specific places that are most at risk."

In the letter, the authors reached out to those living in and visiting the area, asking, "What specific questions are most important to you?" and "What could be done to reduce the danger to people who want to visit or work in Barry Arm?" They also invited locals to let them know about any changes, including even small rock-falls and landslides.

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