Faking Out Fake News: Russia’s Fancy Bear and the FBI Router Request

Unplug your router to stop Russia's Fancy Bear
Unplug your router to stop Russia's Fancy Bear, Photo: Kirill Makarov /123RF

I was reading the news on my phone when I came upon, down at the bottom, the series of compelling stories that headline ONE SIMPLE TRICK YOUR INSURANCE COMPANY DOESN’T WANT YOU TO KNOW, and THESE SIX MEN FROM SOUTHAMPTON ARE ABOUT TO UPEND A BILLION DOLLAR COMPANY.

I don’t click on any of them because I know they are ads for something I don’t want—but then I came upon this new one. THE FBI WANTS YOU TO DO THIS SIMPLE TRICK WITH YOUR ROUTER.

I thought surely this was fake news too, but, curious, I clicked on it anyway. According to this, the simple trick is to unplug your router and then plug it back in again. Why? Because the Russians have come through the hole in the wall to your home and have infected the router part of your modem connection. The Russians are now listening in. The way to get them out is to unplug your router and then plug it back in. That will wipe out the intruder. And if they try to get back in, they will be sent to the FBI.

I thought, I don’t want to be sent to the FBI or, more probably, some outfit pretending to be the FBI. That’s how they getcha. Then I thought maybe this IS to the FBI. So I Googled the situation and guess what—it IS the FBI. The story about this is in The New York Times: FBI’S URGENT REQUEST: REBOOT YOUR ROUTER TO STOP RUSSIA-LINKED MALWARE.

The malware, the Times wrote on May 27, has been found on hundreds of thousands of routers. It can collect information, block web traffic, even shut down the router. If Fancy Bear, the Russians causing this problem (that’s how we know its them) were to expand into millions of routers, they could shut down all communications in America. This is an urgent request.

And you, like me, are thinking, what is a router? The cable comes into your house into one of those two things that sit blinking on the shelf, so which one is it. If it’s infected, does it blink purple? Or faster? What? Well, it’s only a hundred thousand or so, so I’m not touching anything.

But just maybe the guy working at a fake news site thought this was an interesting piece of fake news, so shoved it in. He’ll probably get fired for having been faked out. It’s not fake news. And none of the fake news folks benefit. Unless it is fake news and The New York Times got snookered. Is that possible? Yes.

I just opened my refrigerator door and it took an extra moment for the light inside to go on. You can’t trust anything these days.

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