Government Websites Hijacked For Mining Cryptocurrency

After a warning from the sources regarding hackers taking control of visitors’ computers for mining cryptocurrency, Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) has taken down its website.

Direct from Scott Helme

Scott Helme, security researcher has claimed that more than 4,000 websites have been affected, out of which many government sites were also targeted. Mr. Helme stated that he was notified by a friend who received a malware warning when he visited the ICO website. He also added that affected code has been disabled now and visitors were no longer at risk.

Involvement of Monero in the Crypto Hazard

Scott Helme traced the problem and found the website plug-in called Browsealoud, which used to facilitate partially sighted and blind people in accessing Internet. The company which fabricates the plug-in, Texthelp, confirmed that the product was affected for four hours by a malicious code that was designed to spawn cryptocurrency.

Monero was involved in this crypto hazard. The Bitcoin rival has been designed to make transactions ‘untraceable’ for the recipients and senders involved in it. The plug-in was tampered for adding a program, Coinhive. This program mines Monero by running processor-intensive calculations on visitors’ computers. After the plug-in was infected, thousands of other websites along with ICO’s website were contaminated too.

The Crypto Hazard Analysis

The Bitcoin value surge and upwelling in the value of other cryptocurrencies have already been in the eyes of the hackers, who have been waiting like eagles to grab a quick prey.

The process of mining uses increasing amounts of computer processing power and a lot of electricity. It becomes just better if a hacker can get other people’s computers to do his job. He inserts a software into websites that puts visitors’ computers to mine cryptocurrencies, without visitor’s knowledge.

Many government websites and Information Commissioner’s website were infected by crypto-mining code that is usually injected into some accessibility software used by the Government. This kind of crypto attack has become quite common, these days. While it appears not to cause data loss or damage to systems, it does makes computers run very slowly.

Lucrative Proposal or Serious Breach

According to Mr. Helme, this was a very serious breach. This lucrative proposal infects one website, which in-turn infects close to 5000 websites. There was a possibility that hackers could have extracted personal data, installed malware or even stolen information. In addition to this, the hacked script was found on Student Loans Company websites, Barnsley Hospital website and many other websites worldwide.

As per chief technical officer of TextHelp, Martin McKay, the company has been preparing for such incidents, in light of other recent cyber-attacks around the world. Hence, their data security action plan was straight away brought into play. Post the attack, the company is commissioning a security review by an independent consultancy, as well.

He added that because the malware can run only when someone is actively visiting the infected website, there is no further risk for users.

National Cyber Security Centre experts are examining data that incorporates episodes of malware being used for mining cryptocurrency illegally. According to them, the affected service has been taken offline and the Government websites will be able to operate securely. Right now, the members of the public are out of risk.


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