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Galveston District Finds Cryptocurrency Mining Equipment at School

Galveston District Finds Cryptocurrency Mining Equipment at School
    Galveston Independent School District Principal Tony Brown took a moment on Wednesday evening to publicly thank the district's information technology department for discovering a secret cryptocurrency mining operation going on at six different schools.
    The District Information Systems Administration removed Lynx crypto mining equipment installed by a former district employee at six different schools, officials said.
    A cryptocurrency is any form of currency that exists digitally or virtually and uses cryptography to secure transactions. The first and most popular cryptocurrency, Bitcoin, was launched more than a decade ago.
    Since then, students and rogue government employees have been mining virtual currency, in some cases using computer equipment, electricity and network processing power belonging to their schools or employers, according to Government Technology.
    Bitcoin mining involves solving complex computational puzzles to verify digital currency transactions. According to the publication, running mining functions requires a lot of energy and computer processing power.
    Brown wanted to emphasize the word "ex" when describing employees, he said. He did not provide a name, but stressed that the person no longer works for the district. On Thursday, officials also emphasized that the incident did not corrupt school district data.
    The use of school equipment to thwart cryptocurrency mining is an example of how the region's data protection systems are working as intended, officials said. Brown said IT staff began noticing unusual network traffic and discovered the devices, which may have been installed during spring break in March.
    "I can't describe it in more detail because I can't understand what it was and what they did," Brown said from his seat in the district's board room.
    Brown told the Daily News that the matter is under investigation.
    Brown said he wanted to applaud those who identified problems early and "stopped them before they started." On Thursday, Superintendent Jerry Gibson issued a statement confirming that the district discovered several unauthorized devices connected to the district's network. The devices were discovered on April 8, and the employee responsible for installing them was suspended and eventually resigned from the district on April 18, Gibson said.
    "While investigations related to the employee's misuse of district property are still ongoing, it has been confirmed that the incident did not result in a data breach," Gibson said. "We are pleased that the district's security measures were effective in detecting and preventing any potential issues. Brown and Gibson confirmed that the devices were not cameras installed in the district's schools, dispelling rumors that circulated on their Facebook page on Thursday.
    In recent years, there have been incidents across the country of people being fined, fired and even arrested for using workplaces to generate new bitcoin.
    Tokens exist in blocks of data that are digitally signed each time it is transferred from one owner to the next. These transactions are stored in data blocks; when transactions are verified, these blocks are linked to previous blocks, forming a digital ledger called a blockchain.
    Copies of each blockchain are stored in multiple locations, making it extremely difficult to tamper with, experts say.
    Blockchains are built by people called miners who use their computing power to verify cryptocurrency transactions so no one can reuse the same coin.
    Miners receive new cryptocurrency tokens as a reward.
    Mining Bitcoin has huge potential profits. Currencies vary in value and are known for their volatility. But one bitcoin was worth $40,834 as of Thursday, according to cryptocurrency-focused news site Coindesk.

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