Latest Cryptojacking Attack: St. Francis Xavier University

Nova Scotia is one of Canada’s three Maritime Provinces, with a population just under 924,000. It is Canada’s smallest provinces, maintaining a 19th-century look and feel, and featuring breathtaking views.

It’s also home to the prestigious St. Francis Xavier University (St. F.X.), a primarily undergraduate university located in the small town of Antigonish.

And earlier this month (November) St. F.X. became the latest in a growing number of institutions to be hit by a cryptojacking attack.

Cryptojacking Attack Hits StFX
Seaside businesses and residences in Nova Scotia, Canada.

St. FXs Entire System Shut Down Temporarily

David Masson, country manager for Darktrace, a global artificial intelligence cybersecurity firm, said that on 1 November, despite successfully fending off an attempted cryptojacking attack its computer network, someone at St. FX decided to shut down the university’s entire system.

“I’ve seen extensive infections where lots of devices, lots of computers get enslaved, but I’ve never seen somebody shut everything down,” Masson said.

In 2018, “cryptojacking” stole first place from ransomware and is now the undisputed cyberthreat. It seems like every other day the media is covering hack after hack that involves cryptojacking, and it’s having a significant impact on the cybersecurity industry.


What is Cryptojacking?

cryptojacking

If you’re new to the term “cryptojacking,” it’s an attack technique where “cryptocurrency-mining malware is installed on a target’s computer system, usually without the mark being aware of it.

The malware is used to mine cryptocurrency by leeching off of the target computer’s processing power. This is the type of attack that was launched against St. Francis Xavier University.

The university released a statement revealing that its computing system power had been exploited to mine Bitcoin. The statement went on to say that St. FX was forced to completely shut down its entire network temporarily while the problem was fixed.

The attacks are thought to have been carried out by bots and not humans. The network shut-down affected numerous online services such as Wi-Fi connections, DCB, Banner, MesAmis, Moodle, and debit transactions.

“The malicious software attempted to utilize StFX’s collective computing power in order to create or discover bitcoin for monetary gain. At this time, there is no evidence that any personal information within our network was breached, however, ITS will continue to analyze and monitor for suspicious activity in the days and weeks ahead. ITS has also implemented heightened security measures in response to this event.”

At present, a few of those services mentioned above have been restored, such as debit transactions, DCB, Moodle, and Wi-Fi. However, services like Banner and MesAmis have yet to come back online, with the university’s IT promising to keep working to bring all the services back online as soon as they can.

During that time, St. FX is advising its students to reset their passwords to access their university accounts.