Thousands of websites, including those belonging to NHS services, the Student Loans Company and several English councils, have been infected by malware that forces visitors' computers to mine cryptocurrency while using the site.
Over 4000 websites including several belonging to United Kingdom and U.S. government agencies were found over the weekend to be running hidden crypto-mining malware.
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.
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It is a cryptocurrency created to make transactions untraceable, making it a better option than Bitcoin for those wanting to hide from the law. The affected services have been taken offline, largely mitigating the issue. The hackers managed to inject mining code into these websites through a plugin called "Browsealoud", which is used to help blind and partially sighted people access websites.
In a blog post detailing the cryptojacking, Helme explained how the hackers were able to infect so many websites so efficiently.
"This was a very serious breach".
The hacked plugin, TextHelp's Browsealoud, reads websites aloud for users with partial or total blindness.
Thousands of government websites around the world have been hijacked to mine the cryptocurrency Monero.
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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 National Cyber Security Centre said that the malicious code had now been disabled and members of the public were no longer at risk.
There is no further risk to computers who were affected.
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The malware leveraged the victims' devices to generate the cryptocurrency Monero by performing complex, CPU-intensive calculations, a mathematical process known as "mining" that's used to create some cryptocurrencies.