The VPNFilter Malware Virus: What It Is and How to Remove It

Stop this router based virus in its tracks

An illustration of the VPNFilter malware destroying a computer.

Theresa Chiechi / Lifewire 

The VPNFilter virus is a dangerous form of malware virus that infects your router, ensuring all your data is transmitted through nefarious sources without your knowledge. It can be hard to know if you've been affected but it's worth learning about it.

VPNFilter primarily affects routers although the websites you browse lead to being infected with the malware. It affects all operating systems, as well as many major router brands including those made by D-Link, Mikrotik, Hyawei, Linksys, Asus, TP-Link, and Netgear. 

What Is the VPNFilter Virus?

The VPNFilter virus is a form of malware that is sophisticated and dangerous despite its innocuous sounding name. 

It infects your devices and routers before spying on the traffic flowing between them, before potentially using such information for nefarious reasons. 

How Does VPNFilter Work?

As mentioned, VPNFilter targets routers and NAS/network-attached storage devices. By targeting known flaws and vulnerabilities within the device, VPNFilter burrows into your network in a way that's difficult to detect unless you know what to look for. 

By infecting your network, it means that all your internet traffic goes through VPNFilter so criminals can access passwords, account details and more. 

It's important that you delete the threat quickly so that this doesn't happen. 

How Do I Know I Have the VPNFilter Virus?

The VPNFilter malware isn't easy to spot, unfortunately. Once implanted on your router, it silently works away without giving any indication it's happening. The only potential way you could spot an issue is if you notice a lot of data activity going on while you aren't doing much. That's not very easy to notice though. 

This is why it's important to run regular antivirus software scans or use malware detection tools to spot any potential issues when browsing or downloading files on your computer. 

How Did I Get the VPNFilter Virus?

The VPNFilter malware can come from multiple different sources. You can be infected through external media such as a DVD or USB drive. You can also receive it via malicious ads or popup messages, as well as through downloading illicit pieces of software that come bundled with the malware. 

How Do I Get Rid of the VPNFilter Virus?

The most effective way to get rid of the VPNFilter malware virus is to use antivirus software, as well as a malware removal app. Both can detect it before it actually infects your computer and router. 

Antivirus software can take several hours to complete the process, depending on the speed of your computer, but it also offers you the best methods in which to remove the malicious files. 

It's also worth installing a malware removal tool which helps detect malware like VPNFilter and delete it before it causes any problems.

Like antivirus software, malware scanning can take many hours depending on the size of your computer's hard drive, as well as its speed. 

Unlike other viruses, you also need to remove the VPNFilter malware from your router. To do this, you need to reset your router back to its factory default.

Hard resetting a router requires you to set up your router again as if it's new. It involves creating a new admin password and setting up your wireless network for all your devices. Expect it to take a little time to do correctly. 

How Can I Avoid Getting the VPNFilter Virus Again?

There are a few key ways in which you can lower your chances of being re-infected with VPNFilter (or receiving any other virus). There are also specific tips that relate directly to VPNFilter.

  • Update your router firmware. An updated router is protected from the VPNFilter malware as well as other security threats. Always keep it up to date as soon as possible. 
  • Change your router passwords. Don't stick to the default password set by the router manufacturer. Create your own master password that's stronger and less likely to be accessed by malicious individuals. 
  • Update your antivirus software and malware protection. Keep your antivirus software and malware protection up to date. New virus definitions are released regularly and these keep your PC informed on what to look for with new virus and malware based threats. 
  • Be wary of new programs. It's important to know the source of the programs and apps you've downloaded. Less reputable sites bundle in extra add-ons that you don't require such as VPNFilter. 
  • Don't click on banner ads. When a pop-up banner appears when browsing a website, don't click on it. Often, it's safest to go to a different website than stay on a site that inundates you with pop-up adverts.