Cryptocurrency mining devices discovered at six Galveston ISD schools

Galveston Independent School District officials last week confirmed the uncovering of a network of cryptocurrency mining devices surreptitiously installed on six separate campuses.

According to The Daily News’ John Wayne Ferguson, district IT employees found a number of Bobcat cryptocurrency mining hotspots installed on school networks. The devices were discovered after workers monitoring the district’s systems noted aberrations in network traffic, according to Galveston ISD President Tony Brown.

“I can’t describe it in any more details, because I’d be in way over my head, as far as what it was and what they did,” Brown said, per Ferguson. 

Brown stated the devices were installed by a former district employee who was placed on leave after the discovery and has since resigned. The devices were found on April 8, according to Superintendent Jerry Gibson, and an investigation is ongoing.

“Although the investigation related to the employee’s misuse of district property is ongoing, it has been confirmed that there was no breach of data resulting from this incident,” Gibson said. “We are pleased that the security measures put in place by the district were effective in detecting and preventing any potential issues.”

Cryptocurrencies, such as Bitcoin, are digital currencies traded between users as payment for goods and services. These transactions are authenticated by miners, who use devices like the ones discovered by Galveston ISD employees to provide processing power that helps verify these transactions. The process is highly energy-intensive and requires large amounts of electricity and computer processing power, and miners who provide this service receive new Bitcoin or other cryptocurrencies in return.

In short, crypto mining is a lucrative, energy-heavy enterprise, and lawmakers across the United States are scrambling to craft legislation in the hopes of attracting or regulating mining in their states as the practice proliferates. New York state senators are poised to vote on a bill in the coming weeks that would ban energy-intensive crypto mining in the state for the next two years. Proponents of the bill say it will disincentivize the use of fossil fuels in the creation of Bitcoin and help keep New York on track to meet its carbon emissions goals.

In Texas, Republican lawmakers are courting large-scale cryptominers and hailing their arrival as enterprising businesses capable of fixing the state’s infamously capricious power grid.

Last June, Gov. Greg Abbott touted the arrival of cryptocurrency payment kiosks in a number of H-E-B grocery stores, claiming the Lone Star State would be the nation’s “crypto leader” moving forward.

Texas Senator Ted Cruz has repeatedly called for an influx of large crypto-mining concerns into the state to raise electricity demand in rural areas, a move he claims would help stabilize the grid by raising baseline demand and energy prices.

 “A lot of the discussion around Bitcoin views Bitcoin as a consumer of energy,” Cruz said in October. “The perspective I’m suggesting is very much the reverse.”

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