University shuts down network to thwart Bitcoin cryptojacking scheme

The network and the university's power were used covertly to mine for cryptocurrency.
Written by Charlie Osborne, Contributing Writer

A Canadian university was forced to close down its entire network due to the discovery that the system was being abused in order to mine for cryptocurrency.

Nova Scotia's St. Francis Xavier University uncovered the cryptojacking scheme on Thursday. IT staff at the academic institution found malicious software which had been covertly installed in the university's StFX network.

The malware, which used Xavier University's power and computing resources to mine Bitcoin (BTC) in particular, led the organization to disable the entire network.

In a statement, the university said that after consultation with cybersecurity experts, IT staff "purposefully disabled all network systems in response to what we learned to be to be an automated attack on our systems known as 'crytpocoin [cryptocoin] mining'."

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Xavier University is still recovering from the attack, of which it is not yet known who is responsible. StFX network resources are being brought back online over time, which includes servers, Wi-Fi and the Moodle educational platform.

The university's DCB student payment card system was also disrupted, and debit card transactions relating to the network could not be completed. However, both services have now been restored.

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Not every element of the network has been brought back online, but the university says full restoration of the network will take place "as soon as possible."

Xavier University says there is no evidence that any personal information stored on the network was compromised or stolen, but out of caution, all user StFX account passwords have been reset.

When cryptojacking schemes hit the news it is usually Monero (XMR) that is being mined due to the sheer amount of computing power required to now mine for Bitcoin, which is increasingly scarce in the wild. In contrast, Monero is more widely available.

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However, this is not the only time on record that university systems, due to their vast computing capabilities and large networks, have been abused in the quest for cryptocurrency.

Former MIT students have admitted to mining for cryptocurrency using laptops scrounged from professors while the university footed the bill, and several years ago, a student from Imperial College London made 30,000 Dogecoin by setting up ICL lab PCs to mine at night.

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