The Guardian reports thousands of UK government web sites have been unwittingly infected with malware designed to force visitors into crytocurrency mining:
Late on Sunday, the website of the UK’s data protection watchdog, the Information Commissioner’s Office, was taken down 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 have been flooded by the 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.
Texthelp, which operates BrowseAloud, took its website down on Sunday while it tried to resolve the problem.
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.
One problem with using plugins, such as BrowseAloud, is that if the company developing the software is not reputable, or lacks the proper quality assurance, there is a risk for malware to be either purposely or inadvertently injected into the code. Although the details in this instance remain unknown while UK’s NCSC investigates, one does have to wonder how this happened when so many UK government web sites are reliant upon this accessibility plugin.