NCSC warns of websites caught up in cryptocurrency mining

13 Feb 2018

Cryptocurrency exchange chart. Image: PixieMe/Shutterstock

The NCSC issues a response as crypto-jacking becomes more commonplace.

The National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) in Ireland has made a statement addressing the recent incident of cryptocurrency-mining malware on websites used often by residents.

The assistive technology in Browsealoud allows blind or partially sighted users to navigate the web more easily but last Sunday (11 February), thousands of sites using the third-party plugin fell victim to cryptocurrency-mining malware.

The malicious code sees machines used to mine cryptocurrency without the permission or knowledge of the person using it. Users of certain sites are only affected once the website browser is open.

The NCSC is keen to note that Browsealoud’s vendor has taken all necessary mitigation actions.

Advice issued to all Government departments

The NCSC said it has issued an advisory to all its constituents of Government departments and agencies, along with critical national infrastructure providers, informing them of the issue and outlining a number of mitigation steps to prevent similar types of incidents occurring in the future. The NCSC will continue to monitor developments over time.

Crypto-jacking – or hijacking a machine without the user knowing – is a growing phenomenon in the world of cybercrime. Malicious actors endeavour to get users to relinquish part of their CPU function to this process without them knowing.

Some of the processing power is then given over to performing calculations in the mining process before reverting to normal operations. With this particular variation, experts found code that limited the amount of processing power taken up for mining, helping them to go undetected for a longer time period.

While there was no personal user information taken, users could have possibly noticed reduced device performance but only when the tab of the affected website was open.

The UK NCSC also said there was no risk to the public, but security bodies and experts are bracing for the possibility of cyberattacks on website plugins that may pose a threat to personal user information.

Cryptocurrency exchange chart. Image: PixieMe/Shutterstock

Ellen Tannam was a journalist with Silicon Republic, covering all manner of business and tech subjects