The Beacon

Campus suffers shutdown of video game networks, bitcoin mining

Megan Stanley, News Writer

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Over the past few weeks, the Wilkes University IT system has faced some issues, including a shutdown of the PSN network and potential Bitcoin mining.

At the start of the semester the gaming network for PlayStation and XBox went down, leaving students unable to play.

Jon Carlin, Director of Network and Technical Infrastructure at Wilkes University, said that a piece of malware, computer software that is intended to damage computer systems, was detected on the network which got the network blocked.

“They detected that someone was intentionally [creating malware] or maybe somebody had a piece of malware on their computer that they might not know about. We’re probably leaning to it being a piece of malware because I’d like to hope our students aren’t doing malicious stuff,” Carlin said.

During the five days it took to fix the block, Carlin said “There were a bunch of students that were very helpful and emailed me straightaway, we’re greatly appreciative to the students who responded quickly to questions to try to test things out.”

“We were on the phone for two days with people from Cisco, and even they were having a hard time trying to figure out the block.” Carlin added. “We’re appreciative that the students were very patient with that.”

A student who wished to remain anonymous said “I was starting to get in my groove in Rocket League and when the network went down for so long it really hurt my progress. It was really an inconvenience. We could watch Netflix so it wasn’t too bad but it was really exciting when it [the gaming network] came back on.”

While the PSN network is back up and running, Carlin told The Beacon that the issue isn’t quite fixed. Whilst IT now knows how to fix the issue, they don’t know why it keeps happening.

“I don’t want to mess with it and have people complain, so I’ll bring my Xbox in and have a look, hopefully we can solve it and if it fails over people won’t even notice,” he said.

Recently, rumours have arisen that some students have been Bitcoin mining, which might explain the situation.

Bitcoin, a cryptocurrency and worldwide payment system, that has no central bank or single administrator. Bitcoin mining is a process that requires a lot of processing power. Bitcoin miners keep the Bitcoin network secure by approving transactions. According to bitcoinmining.com, this “ensures fairness while keeping the Bitcoin network stable, safe and secure.”

However, because the process requires a lot of electricity and WiFi, this presents some potential issues for the university if students are Bitcoin mining in their residence halls.

“It is a cost to the university. Is it fair that someone is making money by causing expense which would cause the university to increase revenue somewhere? …  and unfortunately, like most universities, that would be tuition or some other thing,” Carlin said.

Connie Lee, a sophomore nursing major who used to use Bitcoin, but did not engage in mining, said “I used it at the time because it was the easiest way to make money, it was the newest fad and I wanted to get involved.”

However, Lee’s experience with Bitcoin was not a positive one.

“I got greedy and lost a lot of money because it was growing and a lot of countries started regulating it,” she said.

Regarding the question of whether anyone is Bitcoin mining on campus, Carlin said it was complicated.

“They’re hard to find. We’re looking at it from two folds: is any of the malware coming in used for mining cryptocurrency? If they do get in, how do we make sure those people don’t make money off anybody here? Unfortunately, a lot more new things are coming in in terms of malware and viruses. So, we’ll look into it and see if we see anything,” he said.

Carlin wants to encourage students to get anti-virus software on their devices.

“I don’t believe we require students to protect from malware and have protection on their computers, but it’s good practice to have stuff like that,” he said.

He stated that whilst the university network protects devices connected from malware, once students go outside of campus devices are left unprotected.

“Malware is not just targeting Windows, Macs are vulnerable too,” Carlin said.

Next year, the university will start using the Colonel network, which is available now for students to use, instead of the Guest and Student Networks.

Carlin told The Beacon that the hope is when everyone is on the same network, once a piece of malware is detected on a student’s device an email can be sent to ask that individual to run a security scan on their device, because one piece of malware “is basically giving people back doors to your files.”

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Campus suffers shutdown of video game networks, bitcoin mining