DOJ quietly removed Russian malware from routers in US homes and businesses

Ethernet cable plugged into a router LAN port

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More than 1,000 Ubiquiti routers in homes and small businesses were infected with malware used by Russian-backed agents to coordinate them into a botnet for crime and spy operations, according to the Justice Department.

That malware, which worked as a botnet for the Russian hacking group Fancy Bear, was removed in January 2024 under a secret court order as part of "Operation Dying Ember," according to the FBI's director. It affected routers running Ubiquiti's EdgeOS, but only those that had not changed their default administrative password. Access to the routers allowed the hacking group to "conceal and otherwise enable a variety of crimes," the DOJ claims, including spearphishing and credential harvesting in the US and abroad.

Unlike previous attacks by Fancy Bear—that the DOJ ties to GRU Military Unit 26165, which is also known as APT 28, Sofacy Group, and Sednit, among other monikers—the Ubiquiti intrusion relied on a known malware, Moobot. Once infected by "Non-GRU cybercriminals," GRU agents installed "bespoke scripts and files" to connect and repurpose the devices, according to the DOJ.

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