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Government Websites hit by Cryptocurrency Mining Malware

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Thousands of sites, including NHS services and the ICO, hijacked by rogue code.

Thousands of websites, including those belonging to NHS services, the Student Loans Company and several English councils, have been infected by a cryptocurrency mining malware that forces visitors’ computers to mine cryptocurrency while using the site. The website of the UK’s data protection watchdog, the Information Commissioner’s Office, was taken down on Sunday to deal with the issue after it was reportedly infected by the malware.

The cryptojacking script was inserted into website codes through BrowseAloud, a popular plugin that helps blind and partially-sighted people access the web. More than 5,000 websites including Texthelp have been flooded by the mining malware. Software known as Coinhive, which quietly uses the processing power of a user’s device to mine open source cryptocurrency Monero, appears to have been injected into the compromised BrowseAloud plugin.

The National Cyber Security Centre confirmed the issue was being investigated, adding there was nothing to suggest members of the public were at risk after the malware attack. A spokesperson for the National Cyber Security Centre said: “NCSC technical experts are examining data involving incidents of mining malware being used to illegally mine cryptocurrency. The affected services have been taken offline, largely mitigating the issue. Government websites will continue to operate securely.”

Scott Helme, an IT security consultant, raised the alarm about the malware after he received a message from a friend whose antivirus software had detected an issue after visiting a UK government website. “This type of attack isn’t new – but this is the biggest I’ve seen. A single company being hacked has meant thousands of sites impacted across the UK, Ireland and the United States. Someone just messaged me to say their local government website in Australia is using the software as well.” Helme told Sky News.

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