Thursday, 24 May, 2018

US, UK government sites hit by crypto-mining malware

The code in purple is malicioius. Pic Scott Helme Image The code in purple is malicioius. Pic Scott Helme
Orlando Vargas | 12 February, 2018, 09:34

According to the reports, websites of the NHS services, the Student Loans Company, and several English councils, were all infected.

Thousands of websites, including ones run by US and United Kingdom government agencies, were infected for several hours on Sunday with code that causes web browsers to secretly mine digital currencies, technology news site The Register reported.

In Australia, the crypto-jacking attack hit the official website of the Victorian parliament, the Queensland Civil and Administrative Tribunal, the Queensland ombudsman, the Queensland Community Legal Centre homepage, and the Queensland legislation website, which lists all of the state's acts and bills.

The alarm was raised by British security researcher Scott Helme who posted details on Twitter as he found more and more affected sites, and narrowed down the problem to a popular accessibility plugin called "BrowseAloud" which helps make websites more accessible to visually-impaired internet users.

The makers of Browsealoud, Texthelp, confirmed that hackers inserted a script known as Coinhive into their software.

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The exploit was online for four hours in the early hours of Monday, during which time most Australians would have been asleep, and probably not accessing government websites.

Browsealoud operator Texthelp said it taken the tool offline as soon as one of its automated scans had discovered the modified file. Coinhive hijacks the processing power of a user's computer to mine Monero.

Texthelp told The Register that it had shut down the operation by disabling Browsealoud while its engineering team investigated.

There were ways the government sites could have protected themselves from this.

While the computers of countless people were likely used by the attackers to mine the cryptocurrency, it appears that site visitors are completely in the clear, with Texthelp reporting "no customer data has been accessed or lost". Hackers are able to generate profit through crypto-jacking.

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