One of the biggest security scares of last year was followed by widespread calls from the FBI and U.S. Department of Justice to reset your home wireless router for security reasons. The warning came in the wake of a thorough Talos Intelligence report on a type of malware called VPNFilter, which infects network routers. Since this malware is relatively new and the average home router doesn’t have much malware detection/prevention software, this was cause for concern.
According to Talos, this includes multiple Linksys, Mikrotik, Netgear, QNAP, and TP-Link routers (and related network devices from these brands). With so many brands affected, it’s no surprise that the FBI took a shortcut and just asked everybody to reset their routers to play it safe. If you haven’t done it yet, here’s a quick rundown on how to handle the router reboot correctly.
Step 1: Physically unplug your router and modem
While your router may have an onboard option called Reset or Restart, you should be careful about using these, since they may initiate a factory reboot and erase all your current settings. Instead, simply unplug your router and modem (you may have a combined unit, in which case just unplug that) from everything they are attached to (including each other and their power sources).
Once unplugged, leave the router alone for about a minute, just to make sure the router is fully cooled off and that your devices have all registered that the Wi-Fi network is indeed down.
Now go back and plug the modem back into its power source. Wait a bit for the modem to warm up and get ready to pass along its sweet internet connection — another minute should do the trick. Now, plug the router back into the modem, the outlet, and any other necessary connections. Wait a couple minutes for the router to shake hands with everyone and establish your wireless internet signal once again.
Step 2: Update your firmware
The firmware is the integral software that keeps your router functioning. While router firmware doesn’t upgrade as often as something like computer operating systems, it does receive occasional updates, especially when there’s a big security problem. Your next step should be to download any new router firmware so that any router vulnerabilities that might exist are patched. For this, you will need your router login information.
Typically, there is an app or an administrator site you can use to check for firmware and then download it. Here’s how to access Linksys setup. Here’s how to do it with TP-Link, and with Netgear. We also have a more in-depth guide for common router brand logins. Every brand of router, even the obscure ones, should have their own instructions to access these administrator tools. One of the options, when logged in, will be Firmware Update, Router Update, or something similar. Choose this option and follow instructions.
Please note that when the router uploads and implements the firmware patch, you won’t be able to use your Wi-Fi. This doesn’t usually take longer than about 5 minutes, but it’s still good to keep in mind. Never try to turn off or mess with your router while the firmware is updating, since this could cause serious problems.
If the upgrade process turns your router back to its factory default settings, follow our guide on how to set it up again.
Step 3: Update any related apps
Many modern routers offer apps that you can download on mobile devices and use to manage your router settings or view router usage reports.
If you use one of these apps, then you should also visit your app settings and make sure that the app is fully updated to the most recent version. It’s a small but important step you should take.
Step 4: Change your password
Do you still use the default password for your router settings? Since you just logged into administrator controls, you probably have a good idea. Many of us are guilty of keeping the default password set for all that administrator stuff since we rarely use it. Unfortunately, this makes it much easier to hack a router, and since there have now been big news stories about router hacking, a lot of hackers will be perking up and wondering if they should get in on the action.
That means now is the perfect time to switch from the default password to a robust password of your own creation (and then store it in a password manager). The same administrator tools that helped you update your firmware can help you change your password, too. Look for an option to change the password or login information.
Your router should nowbe updated, rebooted, and more secure.