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Security & privacy

Weird News: Russian hacker is taking over routers for good reasons

You’ve heard how the Russians want to hack into, or at least mess with, our electoral process, right? A constant topic on television, in articles and on the radio, it is one that many of us are probably a bit numb to.

Even still, the threat of Russian hackers is certainly real, no matter how worried — or not — one might be. They are not the only hackers, of course, just some of the more talked about.

One specific Russian hacker is actually in the news these days because of their penchant for breaking into people’s routers. That sounds really bad, right?

Well, the hacker is actually just trying to help

The hacker goes by the name “Alexey” online and their mission is simply to break into routers and install a patch that, actually, will help protect them from potential cybercrimes. He adds a firewall that blocks access from outside the local network.

Think of Alexey as a kind of Santa Claus, breaking in but only to leave you with a gift.

According to ZDNet, Alexey says he’s a server administrator who has already fixed more than 100,000 faulty MikroTik routers. You may remember MikroTik routers from the story we did a couple months back, as they were susceptible to hackers who could break in and gain remote administrator access.

The vulnerability was known as CVE-2018-14847, and it was a problem right out of the box. For the most part, attackers mostly used the vulnerability to install cryptojacking scripts and to hijack DNS servers to then send user traffic to malicious sites.

MikroTik quickly offered a patch to fix things, but that did not solve the problem for everyone. After all, it would only work if people took the time to download and update their router, but just think of the last time you patched yours and then wonder how this could be a big issue.

At any rate, Alexey is not doing anything to keep his actions a secret. On the contrary, he has not been shy about explaining what he has done and why he has done it, posting about it all on Russian blogging platforms where he has talked about using his hacking abilities for good.

Upon improving the routers’ security, he writes in the comments about the vulnerability he fixed as well as the address of the Telegram channel that can be used to contact him with questions.

Yet, not everyone is thankful

Alexey says only around 50 people have reached out to him via Telegram, with a few saying thanks but most being upset. That’s understandable, though in a way his hacking into the routers — with good intentions or not — should be a sign to their owners that there are some security flaws they need to be mindful of.

This is not the first instance of a hacker trying to use their abilities for good. Often known as “white hat” hackers, there are many out there who try to break into systems for a variety of beneficial reasons, including alerting businesses to their own vulnerabilities.

Alexey’s hack is on a smaller, more personal scale, but the overall point is the same in that he’s trying to help out, albeit through unconventional and questionable means. Keep in mind that if he can break into your router, even with good intentions, then it’s possible for someone else with bad intentions to do the same.

Want to keep your router safe from all hackers, good or bad?

There is plenty we all know to do to increase our online security, but routers are not often something we really think too much about. Outside of setting up a password, many of us just let them be.

But there are steps you will want to take in order to keep yours secure, including these five that you can learn about with a tap or click here.

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