Thousands of government websites hacked to mine cryptocurrencies

The code in purple is malicioius. Pic Scott Helme

Hackers were reportedly taking control of users' computers to mine cryptocurrency in a malware attack that has affected thousands of websites.

"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.

Government websites in the US, UK and Australia have been serving visitors cryptomining malware after a third-party service was compromised.

The hijacking script uses Coinhive, a popular mining script itself is not meant to be malicious-at least according to its creators-but has gained a reputation for being used in these types of attacks, often referred to as cryptojacking. United Kingdom security researcher Scott Helme discovered the hack and went to United Kingdom computer publication The Register, which broadcast the incident and published a list of over 4,000 infected sites.

The company that makes the plug-in, Texthelp did confirm that for a period of four hours its product had been affected by malicious code created to mine for cryptocurrency.

Mr Helme said he was alerted by a friend who had received a malware warning when he visited the ICO website. It is unclear whether it was an employee who thought it was a good idea to stealthily make some money using client websites (wouldn't be the first time this has happened; Wccftech itself became a victim past year by a different company), or if an attacker managed to compromise it before hijacking websites.

"The attacker added malicious code to the file to use the browser CPU in an attempt to illegally generate cryptocurrency".

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Texthelp said the files that had been tampered with had been removed on Sunday.

It seems the cryptocurrency mining malware has also infested websites in Australia, which include the Queensland Community Legal Centre, the Queensland ombudsman, the Queensland Civil and Administrative Tribunal, the Victoria Parliament's site, and the Queensland legislation website, which lists all of the state's acts and bills.

"Texthelp has in place continuous automated security tests for Browsealoud - these tests detected the modified file and as a result the product was taken offline".

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

On Sunday, the UK National Cyber Security Center (NCSC), part of the GCHQ intelligence agency, said that there is "nothing to suggest that members of the public are at risk".

Unfortunately, security teams lack visibility into all of the ways that they can be attacked externally, and struggle to understand what belongs to their organisation, how it's connected to the rest of their asset inventory, and what potential vulnerabilities are exposed to compromise.

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