Nova Scotia

Cryptocoin mining forces St. F.X. to disable IT system

Information technology systems at St. Francis Xavier University in Antigonish, N.S., were hacked last week, forcing the school’s administration to disable them and implement heightened security measures.

The university says there's no evidence any personal information was stolen

Student Lauren Berrington says she reset her passwords Sunday and things appeared to be back to normal. (CBC)

Information technology systems at St. Francis Xavier University were being brought back online Monday after the Antigonish, N.S., school's network was hacked late last week. 

In a statement posted Sunday on St. F.X.'s website, the university said it was the victim of an "automated attack on our systems known as 'cryptocoin mining.'"

"The malicious software attempted to utilize St. F.X.'s collective computing power in order to create or discover bitcoin for monetary gain," the statement said.

As a result of the hack, the university said all network systems were purposefully disabled and heightened security measures were implemented.

No personal information mined

The statement added there was no evidence any personal information within the network was breached and the university would continue to "analyze and monitor for suspicious activity in the days and weeks ahead."

Students learned there was a problem in an e-mail sent from the university Thursday afternoon.

"All of the students on campus received an e-mail saying there would be an outage and there would be system problems with our e-mail and internet," said Lauren Berrington, a third-year biology student.

"We were informed there would also be problems with our online communications system."

The system, known as Moodle, allows students to access lecture notes and required readings, post assignments and much more.

Back to basics

That meant classes had an old-school feel to them Friday.

"A lot of our professors kind of went back to the basics and went back to the chalkboard," said Berrington. 

Many of the systems were back in service and functioning normally as of Monday.

In an e-mail, a university spokesperson said St. F.X. was analyzing and testing its 150 servers as they were being brought back online.

The university would not provide further comment. 

Students have been asked to reset their passwords in order to recover their St. F.X. accounts.

The RCMP confirmed they were aware of the incident, but an investigation has not been launched.

Cryptocurrency mining is an increasingly popular method for criminals to raise money.

About the Author

Paul Palmeter is an award-winning video journalist born and raised in the Annapolis Valley. He has covered news and sports stories across the province for 30 years.