Hackers force HSE website to hunt for cash

Anonymous hackers and activists

Thousands of government websites have been hijacked by code which made visitors’ computers run cryptocurrency mining software

Thousands of websites, including ones run by US and United Kingdom government agencies, were infected for several hours on Sunday with code that causes web browsers to secretly mine digital currencies, technology news site The Register reported.

On Monday morning, Texthelp took the Browsealoud plug-in offline, which meant that new visitors to the affected sites would no longer load the crypto-jacking script.

It's unknown at this stage whether Browsealoud's code - made by Texthelp - was compromised by insiders or hackers on the outside, but The Register reports that those responsible used the plug-in as a backdoor to inject Coinhive Monero miner into any website using it.

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The news comes amid a surge in cyber attacks using software that forces infected computers to mine crypto currencies on behalf of hackers.

"When you load software like this from a third party, that third party can change it and make it do whatever they want", he said.

Tracking it back, he learnt that it wasn't the website itself that was compromised, but a script file loaded from Texthelp, specifically a tool that allows users to have websites read out to them.

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The Queensland government's main site for its legislation has been hijacked, as have websites belonging to the likes of Queensland Urban Utilities, the Victorian parliament, and South Australia's City of Unley.

The BrowseAloud service was taken offline on Monday by Texthelp, with the company stating in a blog post that the hacking was a criminal act and was being investigated.

The Queensland Government legislation website appears to be among the Australian sites affected.

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Scott Helme, a UK-based security researcher who discovered the malware, said government websites could have done more to prevent the attack.

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