Government websites hijacked by cryptocurrency-mining malware

Cryptocurrency mining software is not illegal and some websites have begun tinkering with plugins that borrow visitor CPU power to mine virtual currency, potentially as an alternative for advertising.

The hacked plugin, TextHelp's Browsealoud, reads websites aloud for users with partial or total blindness.

The code was apparently injected into the sites of all of Browsealoud's clients, including USA sites such as the United States court system's information portal and the City University of New York, Helme said.

There are no indications so far of any data being compromised on any of the websites that were infected.

The firm appears to have been hit by an attack that implanted the code into Browsealoud, in turn passing it on to the service's clients, according to Helme. "It was only limited by the hackers' imaginations", he added.

The security consultant was made aware of the scheme after another security expert, Ian Thornton-Trump, pointed out that the ICO's website had a cryptominer installed within the domain's coding.

As with most (though not all) cryptpominers, the mining process ended when users left the pages or closed their browser tab.

Amongst the affected government websites were the Student Loans Company, the Information Commissioner's Office, Manchester City Council and Croydon Council.

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According to NOS, more than a hundred Dutch sites were used to mine Monero, including the websites of Eindhoven and Utrecht's libraries, and the municipal sites of Bergen op Zoom and Wageningen.

The illicit cryptocurrency mining, known as cryptojacking, took place on more than 4,200 websites on February 11, using a malicious version of a tool called Browsealoud.

In response to the attack, TextHelp temporarily took its Browsealoud plugin offline to address the issue.

Texthelp's chief technology officer Martin McKay has released a statement, saying the compromise was a criminal act.

Over 4,200 websites are in the victims list [link], including The City University of NY, the USA court information portal (uscourts.gov), Lund University, the privacy watchdog The Information Commissioner's Office (ICO), and several other government, health and educational websites across the world. Some of the affected government sites went offline to fix the issue.

"At this stage there is nothing to suggest that members of the public are at risk".

"The company has examined the affected file thoroughly and can confirm that it did not redirect any data, it simply used the computers' CPUs to attempt to generate cryptocurrency", it said.

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