Students Exploiting University Resources to Mine Cryptocurrencies

Students Exploiting University Resources to Mine Cryptocurrencies

A report from Cybersecurity firm Vectra indicates that at times more than 60 percent of mining traffic comes from IP addresses associated with universities. To that end, surreptitious cryptocurrency mining is booming, especially for students who misuse university computing equipment and electricity. University campuses have also been the primary target of hackers that cryptojack computers to mine cryptocurrencies.

Also see: Florida State Rep. Candidate Sets Up Ethereum Contract for Contributions

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Students Use School for Low-Cost Mining

As bitcoin prices surged last year, college students have shown more interest in digital currencies.  According to coin.dance statistics, the age group between 25 and 34 engages more with bitcoin than any other age group. Moreover, recently a student loan information website, Student Loan Report, showed that about 20 percent of students use their financial aid to invest in volatile digital currencies.

Christopher Morales, Head of Security Analytics at Vectra, said: “Students are more likely to perform crypto mining personally as they don’t pay for power, the primary cost of crypto mining.”

However, some universities have already begun to clamp down on these practices. In January 2018, Stanford issued a notice warning students to not misuse university resources for mining cryptocurrencies.

The notice stated:

“Per university policy, Stanford resources must not be used for personal financial gain. As such, community members are prohibited from using university resources (including computing equipment, network services, and electricity) for cryptocurrency mining activities outside of faculty sanctioned research and coursework.”

Hackers Target University Campuses to Illegally Mine Cryptocurrencies

College campuses are also a chief target of hackers due to poor security controls at universities and the mass computational power it can generate. As per Vectra’s report,  from August 2017 to January 2018, hackers have attacked educational institutes more than any other industries. Around 85 percent of the total cryptojacking attacks have been on higher education institutes.

Hackers do not even need to breach universities’ computer systems to install illegal mining scripts. Generally, students access questionable content on the web and most of these websites run crypto mining scripts in the background, which without the consent of the user get installed on the device. Once installed, the mining script leeches computer power to mine cryptocurrencies.

Steve Grobman, chief technology officer at McAfee Security, told Marketwatch:

“Cybercriminals will always seek to pursue greatest returns on their investment of time, talent, and resources while minimizing risk. Cryptocurrency mining is an optimal form of cybercrime across these vectors when compared to data theft and ransomware. In the case of crypto mining, criminals can infect thousands of machines and get paid, all without the risks associated with transacting with victims or dealing in the black markets of the dark-web.”

The major problem is that these illicit mining scripts are difficult to detect and therefore keep consuming CPU power. Universities have numerous computer systems, which makes it a profitable choice for hackers as mining can be carried out ont a larger scale.

Is it unethical for students to exploit universities resources to mine cryptocurrencies? Let us know your views in the comments section.


Images via Bill Moyers, AdGuard

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