US, UK cyber cops warn Russians are rooting around in your routers


The U.S. and British governments on Monday accused Russian Federation of conducting a massive campaign to compromise computer routers and firewalls around the world - from home offices to Internet providers - for espionage and possibly sabotage purposes.

Russian hackers are trying to gain access to the devices that control the flow of internet traffic, the United States and United Kingdom warned Monday in an alert for organizations and individuals worldwide.

The U.S. and British governments jointly tracked the latest campaign, which has targeted millions of machines globally, said Ciaran Martin, chief executive officer of Britain's NCSC, the government's central cybersecurity agency.

"We have high confidence that Russian Federation has carried out a coordinated campaign to gain access to enterprise, small office, home office routers known as SOHO routers and residential routers, and the switches and connectors worldwide", said Rob Joyce, special assistant to the President and cybersecurity coordinator at the White House, speaking to journalists.

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"The goal of these attacks could be espionage, it could be theft of intellectual property, it could be prepositioning for use in times of tension", NCSC Director Ciaran Martin said.

Britain's relations with Russia are at a historic low, after it blamed Russia for a nerve agent attack on former Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia in Salisbury, Wiltshire, prompting mass expulsions of diplomats. The US has taken actions in the previous year against alleged hackers from Iran, Russia and North Korea. But the responsibility also falls on device makers to issue necessary fixes. Any compromised hardware might even be used as a foundation for future attacks, the alert theorized.

Russian state-sponsored hackers are seeking to hijack critical network infrastructure devices, USA and British intelligence agencies say.

"It's a tremendous weapon in the hands of an adversary", echoed the FBI's Howard Marshall, the deputy assistant director of the cyber division.

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The Russian attackers would scan across the internet for routers with vulnerabilities, according to the technical alert.

If there was ever a time to beef up your computer's security at home, now would be it. Part of the alert calls on people to step up their own security, with Manfra pointing out that the DHS can't "protect every single device".

"Russian government-sponsored actors" accessing passwords, information through routers.

Manufacturers and ISPs are asked to not support out-of-date, unencrypted, or unauthenticated protocols and services. It also recommended that future products be designed with security in mind, like requiring customers to change default passwords.

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The announcement came in an unprecedented joint alert that underscored closer cooperation between Western governments fighting what they say is an ongoing, multifaceted hacking and online disinformation campaign by Moscow.