St. FX computers hacked by bitcoin miners Local | news


It's a gold rush that rages across the information highway, complete with its new brand of new bandits and sheriffs.

It lacks some of the allure of the wild west and currency is not something you can bite to test if it's true gold, but there's more money.

Someone could even extract these new cryptocurrencies using your computer while you read this story and you would not even know it.

This is what happened at St. Francis Xavier University.

"Malicious software has attempted to use the collective computing power of St F.X. to create or discover bitcoins for monetary gain," says a statement to staff and students sent on Sunday from the university.

"At the moment, there is no evidence that personal information within our network has been violated, however, ITS will continue to analyze and monitor suspicious activity in the days and weeks to come."

St. F.X. he did not say in the statement how long his network was used to extract the cryptocurrency and only provided a written response to Monday's Chronicle Herald questions.

"Over the weekend, our IT services have initiated a methodical process, which includes the analysis and testing of each of our 150 servers, while we report them online," says the statement.

"Many systems are back from this morning."

Cryptocurrencies are forms of money generated by computer algorithms rather than issued by governments. One of the best known is Bitcoin.

That coin is created as a privately owned computer by mincing it using software to solve a complex mathematical equation.

Bitcoin mining has become a big business – and legal – as people invest in bigger and bigger computer systems to create bitcoins.

With the increase in the currency, the cost to create it has also increased.

So much so that hackers have started to hijack personal and business computers to steal the algorithms to extract cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin.

"We need a lot of computing power," said Doug Cooke, director of sales at McAfee Canada.

"And these days the guy in his garage is spending a lot of money on the hardware and he's not making a lot of money."

In this new online gold rush, Cooke is one of the sheriffs.

His task is to chase the outlaws.

And it's busy.

According to the McAffee Labs September Threats Report, over two million versions of malware were discovered designed to turn the computer into a cryptocurrency miner without you knowing it or even sharing the loot.

"With the malware there is always this similar arms race," Cooke said.

"We find it, so hackers modify it, so we find it and modify a new version." They keep changing malware, so we continue to follow them. "

A large computer network at a university would be an ideal goal, Cooke said.

While Cooke was tracking outlaws online through the wild web frontiers, Monday, Laura Blinn, Carl Miller and Sarah Truffyn were happy to be able to use their computers again.

The three college students sitting around a laptop from Angus L. MacDonald Library at St. FX, like everyone else at school, did not have access to the Internet and everything they used at school, as IT staff started eliminate the system last Thursday.

"It was not that bad," Blinn said.

"Most of our professors were quite understanding."

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