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Asus Settles FTC Charges Over Router Security

Asus has agreed to settle Federal Trade Commission (FTC) charges related to the Taiwan-based hardware and electronics company’s failure to secure its routers and protect customers against cyberattacks.

The FTC filed a lawsuit against Asus claiming that the vendor has put hundreds of thousands of consumers at risk through a series of critical vulnerabilities found in its routers and related services.

The agency accused Asus that it misrepresented the security features included in its routers and falsely claimed that they can protect computers and local networks against hacker attacks, when in reality they were plagued by serious vulnerabilities that allowed malicious actors to hijack devices.

As an example of malicious activity, the FTC pointed to a 2015 campaign in which attackers exploited flaws in routers from Asus and other vendors to change DNS settings and redirect users to arbitrary domains.

The FTC is also displeased with the way Asus advertised its router storage services AiCloud and AiDisk, which allow users to access files stored on a USB hard drive connected to the router from any of their devices. Researchers found that the AiCloud and AiDisk services were plagued by vulnerabilities that allowed malicious actors to easily access users’ files.

In February 2014, after seeing that Asus had not taken any steps to protect users, hackers took matters into their own hands and started warning router owners by planting a text file on the external hard drives connected to vulnerable devices.

Another problem, according to the FTC, is that the vendor often ignored vulnerability reports received from security researchers, and failed to notify customers when security patches were made available. Furthermore, the firmware update tool in routers often falsely told customers that their devices had been up to date.

As part of the settlement with the FTC, Asus will have to establish and maintain a comprehensive security program that is subject to external audits for a period of 20 years. The vendor will also have to ensure that customers can sign up for a security notification system designed to inform them about the availability of firmware updates and provide instructions on how to protect themselves against potential attacks.

Asus has also been prohibited from misleading consumers regarding the security of its products, including whether a router is running the latest version of the firmware.

While in the past Asus might have not been very responsive to vulnerability reports sent by security researchers, the vendor appears to have made some improvements over the past period. Researcher David Longenecker, who has identified several flaws in Asus routers, told SecurityWeek earlier this month that the company has been very responsive to all his reports.

Related: Oracle Settles FTC Charges Over Java Security Updates

Related: Wyndham Settles FTC Charges Without Paying Fine

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Eduard Kovacs (@EduardKovacs) is a contributing editor at SecurityWeek. He worked as a high school IT teacher for two years before starting a career in journalism as Softpedia’s security news reporter. Eduard holds a bachelor’s degree in industrial informatics and a master’s degree in computer techniques applied in electrical engineering.