Official government websites in India ran cryptomining scripts without their owners’ knowledge, the Economic Times reported Monday.
Municipal government websites in the state of Andhra Pradesh, among others, were infected by cryptomining software such as Coinhive, security researchers found. Users visiting these websites would then inadvertently mine cryptocurrencies on behalf of the hackers who injected the scripts in the websites originally.
The process is called cryptojacking, as the malicious scripts essentially hijack a user’s computer to mine cryptocurrencies.
Security researchers Shakil Ahmed, Anisha Sarma and Indrajeet Bhuyan discovered the vulnerabilities, finding that three of sites running cryptojacking malware belonged to the ap.gov.in subdomain, which sees 160,000 hits every month, according to the report.
Bhuyan told the Times that government websites are popular targets for malicious actors, saying:
“Hackers target government websites for mining cryptocurrency because those websites get high traffic and mostly people trust them … Earlier, we saw a lot of government websites getting defaced (hacked). Now, injecting cryptojackers is more fashionable as the hacker can make money.”
Andhra Pradesh’s IT secretary did not respond to a request for comment from the Times, though the state’s IT advisor to the chief minister, JA Chowdary, said “thanks for notifying us about the AP website hacking,” on September 10, according to the report.
Despite acknowledging the cryptojacking malware, the websites continued to run the scripts as of September 16, the Times noted.
It is unclear how long each website ran cryptojacking software, or how much cryptocurrency was mined for the attackers.