Crypto Hackers Hijack Government Websites To Mine Cryptocurrency

15 February, 2018, 07:50 | Author: Pamela Mathis
  • The code in purple is malicioius. Pic Scott Helme

According to a report, hackers hit the USA and United Kingdom government websites more than 4,200 sites with a code that forces web browsers to secretly mine cryptocurrency.

"We would like to reassure our website users that no council data or information has been accessed or compromised during this worldwide cyberattack", he said. Websites including the UK's Student Loans Company (SLC), the UK National Health Service (NHS) Scotland, the Australian Queensland government portal, and U.S. websites were also affected, such as uscourts.gov.

On Sunday, computer security researcher Scott Helme discovered the latest incident after a friend received a malware alert when visiting the ICO's site.

Helme told Sky News "This type of attack isn't new - but this is the biggest I've seen". After compromising Browsealoud, the hackers altered the plugin's code, injecting malicious JavaScript in order to secretly run the mining software known as Coinhive on unsuspecting machines. In this case, the plug-in had been hijacked to mine for Monero which has grown popular amongst hackers since its transactions are nearly untraceable. As of Monday morning the ICO continued to display a message on the website's front page stating that it was unavailable. At press time, the site was still down, citing "maintenance".

Although responsibility ultimately lies with Texthelp, Helme suggested government websites should be held to a higher security standard if they use third-party services, such as Browsealoud.

"A security review will be conducted by an independent security consultancy", said Martin McKay, Texthelp's data security officer.

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Hackers often seek to infect others' computers with cryptominers because the mining process requires vast amounts of computational power, which often dramatically slows the device.

According to another report from Australian news source ABC.net, several government sites in Queensland, as well as the Victorian Parliament, also appeared to have been affected.

Texthelp, who makes the plug-in, did confirm that its product had been affected for four hours by a malicious code created to generate cryptocurrency.

Texthelp, the company that sells Browsealoud, has now taken down the service until midday Tuesday 13 February.

It said that there are no indications at this stage that members of the public are at risk.

IRELAND'S NATIONAL CYBER Security Centre (NCSC) has said that it is aware that a number of websites have been infected by hackers using the sites' to "mine" cryptocurrencies without their permission. "There are easy ways to make sure they don't do that".

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