St. Francis Xavier University in Nova Scotia, Canada has been targeted by cryptocurrency mining malware in a cyberattack that has forced the institution to shut down its entire network for the better part of a week as system administrators struggle to root out the malware. Known as “cryptojacking,” the practice has become recognised as a tool of choice for cybercriminals who are increasingly pivoting toward crypto technology to facilitate their activities.
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Globalnews.ca reports that the cryptojacking attack started on Nov. 1, targeting the university’s considerable network infrastructure for unauthorised mining of a yet-to-be-identified cryptocurrency. After the malware was detected, the school immediately pulled its entire network offline, effectively paralysing all activities relating to its online course system, cloud storage, email services, debit transactions, and Wi-Fi.
In a statement released on Nov. 4, the university revealed that while there is no indication that personal or sensitive data has been compromised by the malware attack, it took the precautionary decision to take its entire network offline while its IT experts work to identify and fix the security breach.
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The statement reads in part:
“On Thursday, ITS, in consultation with security specialists, purposefully disabled all network systems in response to what we learned to be to be an automated attack on our systems known as ‘cryptocoin mining.’ The malicious software attempted to utilize StFX’s collective computing power in order to create or discover bitcoin for monetary gain.”
Assuring the university community that services will be restored in a staggered manner, the statement also instructed everyone at the university to reset their university account passwords.
Cryptojacking: a Global Security Headache
CCN has reported on a recent series of stories that indicate that cryptojacking is becoming more sophisticated as cybercriminals look to embed it into their ever-evolving array of tactics. In October, it was revealed that fake Adobe flash updates wee being used as Trojan horses to install crypto mining software. Earlier, it was also reported that the Indian government suffered a series of cryptojacking malware attacks with several municipal governments across the country targeted.
Against this backdrop, McAfee Labs warned in September that cryptojacking detections surged a massive 86 percent in Q2 2018, making it one of the fastest growing threat categories in cybersecurity alongside ransomware. Already, at least 30 percent of UK businesses reported crypto miner attacks in July 2018, and the problem looks set to worsen as it is relatively cheap and easy to introduce such malware into enterprise-level networks such as St. Francis Xavier University.
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