Russians targeting routers: US, Britain

Treasury Sanctions Iranian Cyber Actors for Malicious Cyber-Enabled Activities Targeting Hundreds of Universities

These attacks target government, the private sector and critical infrastructure, as well as the Internet Service Providers (ISPs) providing support to these sectors, with attacks across the globe on network infrastructure devices including routers, switches, firewalls, Network Intrusion Detection Systems (NIDS).

Russian government-sponsored hackers are compromising the key hardware of government and business computer networks like routers and firewalls, giving them virtual control of data flows, Britain and the United States warned Monday.

"Russia is our most capable hostile adversary in cyberspace so tackling them is a major priority for the National Cyber Security Centre and our USA allies", Ciaran Martin, CEO of the National Cyber Security Centre, said in a statement.

White House cybersecurity coordinator Rob Joyce said the United States and its allies had "high confidence" that Russian Federation was behind the campaign.

The alert came from the Britain's National Cyber Security Centre, DHS and the US Federal Bureau of Investigation.

No sanctions or penalties were announced Monday, and the alert is unrelated to expected sanctions on Russian Federation in coming days, though Joyce reiterated that "all elements of USA power are available to push back" on such hacking efforts.

Despite the ebb in relations between the US/UK and Russian Federation - marked by diplomatic expulsions, indictments related to the Internet Research Agency and the 2016 election, the Skripal poisoning, and ongoing events in Syria - the White House appears disinclined to punish Russian Federation for alleged bad behavior.

"The US government and the United Kingdom condemn the actions of the Russian government, and we hold the Kremlin responsible for these malicious cyber activities", she added.

In router attacks, consumers can protect themselves by keeping the devices updated.

A hacker could also "potentially lay a foundation for future offensive operations", the joint alert said. "It provides basic infrastructure that they can launch from".

"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.

From there, an attacker has several ways to break into the router. Most of the time, however, hackers are able to get in thanks to default passwords that were never changed. "A malicious actor with presence on an organization's gateway router has the ability to monitor, modify, and deny traffic to and from the organization". The DHS also recommends people "retire and replace legacy devices" that can't be updated.

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.

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