UK government websites, ICO hijacked by cryptocurrency mining malware, ZDNet

US and Australian government domains were also affected by the bold cryptojacking scheme.

By Charlie Osborne for Zero Day | February 12, 2018 — 08:38 GMT (00:38 PST) | Topic: Security

A number of government websites te the UK, US, and Australia, including the UK Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO), have bot compromised by cryptojacking malware.

According to security researcher Scott Helme, overheen Four,000 websites have bot affected.

The security consultant wasgoed made aware of the scheme after another security accomplished, Ian Thornton-Trump, pointed out that the ICO’s webstek had a cryptominer installed within the domain’s coding.

Helme confirmed the findings on Twitter, and upon further exploration, discovered that the mining code wasgoed present on all of the ICO’s web pages.

It wasgoed not long before the researcher realized far more than the ICO had bot compromised. Websites including the UK’s Student Loans Company (SLC), the UK National Health Service (NHS) Scotland, the Australian Queensland government portal, and US websites were also affected, such spil uscourts.gov.

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

However, malware which installs such mining software without consent is fraudulent and can slow down visitor systems when legitimate websites are serving up mining scripts.

The researcher traced the code found ter the ICO webstek to a third-party plugin, Browsealoud, which is intended to assist visually impaired visitors to webstek domains.

The plugin’s developers, Texthelp, confirmed that the plugin had bot compromised to mine cryptocurrency.

Te a blog postbode, the researcher said that the script for the Browsealoud plugin, ba.js, wasgoed altered to include the Coinhive cryptocurrency miner, which specializes te Monero.

Any webstek using the plugin and loading the verkeersopstopping would then unwittingly stream the cryptocurrency miner with it. Spil a result, it is not the websites themselves that have bot internally compromised, but rather a third-party service that wasgoed tampered with for the purpose of cryptojacking.

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“If you want to blast a crypto miner on 1,000+ websites you don’t attack 1,000+ websites, you attack the one webstek that they all fountain content from,” Helme noted. “Ter this case, it turned out that Texthelp, an assistive technology provider, had bot compromised and one of their hosted script files switched.”

A public search on PublicWWW exposed that up to Four,275 websites may have loaded the infected script and mined cryptocurrency by borrowing visitor processing power spil a result.

At the time of writing, the Browsealoud webstek is not accessible.

Texthelp said no customer information has bot exposed due to the security lapse, and “Browsealoud [wasgoed eliminated] from all our customer sites instantaneously, addressing the security risk without our customers having to take any activity.”

The exploit wasgoed active for harshly four hours on Sunday.

Texthelp intends to keep the plugin offline until 12.00pm GMT on Tuesday to “permit time for Texthelp customers to learn about the kwestie and the company’s response project.”

Helme says that this attack vector is nothing fresh, but it would have taken a ordinary tweak to the loading script to prevent it happening ter the very first place. By altering the standard coding to fountain a .js opstopping to include the SRI Integrity Attribute, which permits a browser to determine whether or not a opstopping had bot modified, the entire campaign could have bot “totally neutralized.”

“Te brief, this could have bot totally avoided by all of those involved even however the opstopping wasgoed modified by hackers,” the researcher says. “I guess, all ter all, wij truly shouldn’t be witnessing events like this toebijten on this scale to such vooraanstaand sites.”

At the time of writing, the ICO webstek is not available.

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.”

“NCSC technical experts are examining gegevens involving incidents of malware being used to illegally mine cryptocurrency,” an NCSC spokesperson said. “The affected service has bot taken offline, largely mitigating the kwestie. Government websites proceed to operate securely.”

Related movie: My very first mining equipment (Five x GTX 1080 ti) and problems I had setting it up to mine crypto currency.


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