Government websites hit by cryptocurrency hack

The code in purple is malicioius. Pic Scott Helme

Sites known to have been serving up the script include City University of NY, the US court information portal (uscourts.gov), U.K. privacy watchdog The Information Commissioner's Office, The U.K. Financial Ombudsman Service (financial-ombudsman.org.uk) and various government sites in Australia, including both the Queensland and Victoria parliaments.

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.

Rather than mining bitcoin, the most well-known cryptocurrency, the hacking software is being used to generate Monero - a rival currency worth around £180 per unit.

This presents a major opportunity for bad actors to tamper with these resources, as all websites using said resource will pull the malicious code into the browsers of every user.

"If you want to load a crypto miner on a thousand websites you don't attack them all, you attack the one website they all load content from".

In the United Kingdom, the Information Commissioner's Office and the Student Loan Company have both been affected, with the General Medical Council and NHS Inform also found running the script.

With the global rise in cyber attacks recently, TextHelp was prepared for such a breach and was able to implement its data security action plan once the hack was discovered.

Hackers trying to mine the digital currency Monero exploited thousands of websites, including those for educational institutions in the USA and elsewhere. Coinhive has long said its product is a legitimate way for websites to make money and doesn't endorse anyone using its code without first informing visitors. The Queensland government's legislation website, the Queensland Civil and Administrative Tribunal and the Victorian Parliament were reportedly affected.

In order to get the crypto-mining software onto unsuspecting computers, the hack targeted an accessibility plugin called Browsealoud that makes the web easier to use for people with dyslexia or low English comprehension.

Along with the ICO website, the hacking software was noticed on the site of the Student Loans Company, Barnsley Hospital and other websites worldwide.

He added that a security review would be conducted by a specialist independent consultancy. "The investigation is ongoing, and customers will receive a further update when the security investigated has been completed".

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

The UK's National Cyber Security Centre is investigating the incident.

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