Cyber-attack Harnesses StFX Network Power


Bitcoin business temporarily shuts down StFX services

StFX services such as Wi-Fi, Moodle, MesAmis, printing and student email accounts were down for the count starting the morning of November 1. These services and others gradually returned on Sunday following a 4-day hiatus. 

The university’s Facebook @stfxuniversity posted on November 2 that the “IT Services Team worked through the night making progress testing and analyzing the 150 servers within our network.” Each server is being evaluated rebooted after a thorough assessment that accounts for the time-consuming process. 

Kendra MacDonald, a Service & Support Administrator of IT Services notes the cause of this issue to be an organization harnessing power from the school’s network to mine bitcoin. 

MacDonald assured The Xaverian Weekly that the person, or people, doing ‘cryptocoin mining.’  behind this operation on StFX’s high-powered network did not access personal information from students’ accounts. 

StFX News details the act of ‘mining’ as “The malicious software attempted to utilize StFX’s collective computing power in order to create or discover bitcoin for monetary gain.”

Xaverian News Editor Evan Davison-Kotler worked in the corporate finance industry this past summer as a blockchain consultant. He expands on StFX’s announcement, “There’s essentially a set number of bitcoins that have can ever come into circulation. Mining is simply the process of releasing a new bitcoin into circulation. It’s a competition between lots of people on the network to solve a really hard cryptographic problem using computational power. The function of mining is essentially two-fold – it creates a resource-based method of obtaining Bitcoin, putting a bottleneck on the supply and a cost (power) associated with the procurement of the currency. The second element is security – the more individuals attempting to release a coin into circulation, the more secure the bitcoin network becomes; this is through really impressive and complex cryptography. The more bitcoins in circulation, the higher the mining difficulty for the next bitcoin, meaning the more power necessary to mine. In theory, increased power demands match increased price of bitcoin, meaning there is always a monetary incentive to expend the power necessary to release a new coin into circulation. We can obviously see the issue with this, where bad actors could attempt to infiltrate and repurpose existing servers and processors that they do not own, re-routing them to expend processing power on bitcoin mining.”  

Bitcoin is a cryptocurrency created by Satoshi Nakamoto. The idea for the cryptocurrency was first posted by Nakamoto in “Bitcoin P2P e-cash paper” dated November 1, 2008. 

The paper by Nakamoto, originally published in full on, is the first trace of Nakamoto’s mysterious identity. To this day, documentaries and other sources speculate on whether Nakamoto is an individual or a group of people.  

An article titled “What is Bitcoin?” posted on the University of Toronto website March 17, 2014 defines in some detail what is Bitcoin and how it works. Jenny Hall interviews Yuri Takhteyev who was a status-only professor in the Faculty of Information about cryptocurrency. Takhteyev concludes that, “cryptocurrencies are probably here to stay.” 

Takhteyev correctly predicted the evolution of “cryptocurrencies” from the underground black-market into mainstream. The University of Toronto added three new courses this year. Portfolio Management Praxis Under Real Market Constraints, Blockchain Technologies and Cryptocurrencies, and Inventrepreneurship: Invention + Entrepreneurship are now courses taught to graduate students in the Faculty of Applied Science & Engineering.

The objective of Blockchain Technologies and Cryptocurrencies as an academic course of study is described by the University of Toronto in the U of T News, “This course will provide students with the concepts and mechanics of the blockchain technologies starting with Bitcoin, allowing them to identify business-relevant benchmarking criteria for blockchain technologies in accordance with their current and future impact on business processes.” 

Cryptocurrency has come a long way since Bitcoin was introduced ten years ago by Nakamoto. The study of blockchain technology by international universities in Qatar, Stanford, and Edinburgh validate Nakamoto’s global influence at the post-secondary education level.

The recent cyber-attack on StFX’s network is a reminder for our readers to remain critical and inform themselves before investing in cryptocurrency.

Enterprise systems professor David Mattie, who has over twenty years of experience in the IT services industry commented on the breach, “All it takes is one guy penetrating one server, out of our 500, to have all of StFXs data compromised. We spend the same amount of money as the University of Toronto does in our IT department, but we are always susceptible to being hacked. It does not matter how much money you spend on IT, you will never be able to be 100% secure unfortunately.”

StFX continues to investigate the matter and have yet to identify the culprit responsible for the cyber- attack.