Thousand of websites, including those run by government departments in Australia, the United Kingdom and the United States, have been serving up cryptomining script through a popular plugin used to assist disabled visitors on websites.
An IT security consultant, Scott Helme, raised the alarm after his friend received an alert from his anti-virus software after visiting a government website.
The software, Browsealoud, was compromised and had malicious, criminal code inserted, which meant that any visitor to a site using the software could have become a victim.
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Helme, the researcher, added that this could have been a lot worse, confirming to Which? that it would have been just as simple for hackers to have instead planted "keyloggers" or other much more harmful malware.
Helme was made aware of the hack by fellow security specialist Ian Thornton-Trump, who discovered that the ICO's website was hosting the malware.
Scores of public-sector websites were affected by a cyberattack which used malware to generate cryptocurrency. Sites in the UK Government, a big user of Browsealoud, were particularly affected.
The exploit was online for four hours in the early hours of Monday, during which time most Australians would have been asleep, and probably not accessing government websites.
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Martin McKay, Chief Technology Officer and Data Security Officer for TextHelp added, "A security review will be conducted by an independent security consultancy".
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".
An investigation to try and uncover the perpetrator is now underway and technical experts are examining data from the incident, said a spokesperson for the National Cyber Security Centre in a statement. Embedded in all of the affected sites, TextHelp's BrowseAloud software offers accessibility services to those with visual or literacy impairments who are browsing the web.
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