Thousands of websites secretly loaded a cryptocurrency miner that preys upon visitors after cybercriminals compromised a third-party library.

Security researcher Scott Helme reported the incident in a blog post that detailed how unknown actors changed one of the script files hosted by Texthelp, a provider of reading-assistive technology. Those malefactors targeted the Browsealoud web screen reader and altered it to include the CoinHive Monero miner.

“The ba.js had been altered to include a document.write call that added a CoinHive crypto miner to any page it was loaded in to,” Helme explained. In total, he found that the incident affected more than 4,000 websites, including many “prominent government websites” in the U.S. and U.K.

Swift Response

Helme reached out to Texthelp following his discovery, and the technology provider responded by temporarily disabling Browsealoud. It also issued a statement informing customers that it had implemented its “data security action plan” after learning of the issue. Texthelp went on to note that it had removed Browsealoud from all customer sites and mitigated any associated risk within four hours.

The U.K.’s Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) took down its website Feb. 11 after learning it had been affected. The site remained offline the next day while the ICO investigated the incident.

Preventing Cryptocurrency Miner Attacks

The surge of cryptocurrency miner attacks in recent months calls for domain owners to strengthen the security of their websites. According to Helme, they can protect their sites against this particular attack type by adding the SRI Integrity Attribute, which enables the browser to determine whether a file has been modified. If someone has changed it, the browser won’t load the file.

Domain owners can take their website security one step further by implementing the Content Security Policy and the require-sri-for directive, Helme noted. Together, those measures prevent any script from loading on a hosted webpage without an SRI Integrity Attribute.

More from

Containers, Security, and Risks within Containerized Environments

Applications have historically been deployed and created in a manner reminiscent of classic shopping malls. First, a developer builds the mall, then creates the various stores inside. The stores conform to the dimensions of the mall and operate within its floor plan.In older approaches to application development, a developer would have a targeted system or set of systems for which they intend to create an application. This targeted system would be the mall. Then, when building the application, they would tailor…

Inside the Second White House Ransomware Summit

Ransomware is a growing, international threat. It's also an insidious one. The state of the art in ransomware is simple but effective. Well-organized criminal gangs hiding in safe-haven countries breach an organization, find, steal and encrypt important files. Then they present victims with the double incentive that, should they refuse to pay, their encrypted files will be both deleted and made public. In addition to hundreds of major attacks around the world, two critical ransomware incidents — the Colonial Pipeline attack and…

Did Brazil DSL Modem Attacks Change Device Security?

From 2011 to 2012, millions of Internet users in Brazil fell victim to a massive attack against vulnerable DSL modems. By configuring the modems remotely, attackers could redirect users to malicious domain name system (DNS) servers. Victims trying to visit popular websites (Google, Facebook) were instead directed to imposter sites. These rogue sites then installed malware on victims' computers. According to a report from Kaspersky Lab Expert Fabio Assolini citing statistics from Brazil's Computer Emergency Response Team, the attack ultimately…

Who Carries the Weight of a Cyberattack?

Almost immediately after a company discovers a data breach, the finger-pointing begins. Who is to blame? Most often, it is the chief information security officer (CISO) or chief security officer (CSO) because protecting the network infrastructure is their job. Heck, it is even in their job title: they are the security officer. Security is their responsibility. But is that fair – or even right? After all, the most common sources of data breaches and other cyber incidents are situations caused…