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Egghead dragged over coals for mining Bitcoin on uni supercomputer

$150k of compute power to trouser $10k in BTC

Security for virtualized datacentres

The US National Science Foundation has suspended a researcher for using two university computers to mine Bitcoins.

In its biannual report [PDF] to the US Congress, the government agency revealed the misdoing and recommended action:

The researcher misused over $150,000 in NSF-supported computer usage at two universities to generate bitcoins valued between $8,000 and $10,000. Both universities determined that this was an unauthorized use of their IT systems. The researcher asserted that he was conducting tests on the computers, but neither university had authorized him to conduct such tests -- both university reports noted that the researcher accessed the computer systems remotely and may have taken steps to conceal his activities, including accessing one supercomputer through a mirror site in Europe.

The researcher’s access to all NSF-funded supercomputer resources was terminated. In response to our recommendation, NSF suspended the researcher government-wide.

The report – published this week – is dated March 2014, when the value of Bitcoin fell from around $660 to $460 which would indicate that about 20 Bitcoins were mined in total. The value of Bitcoin has since recovered to around the $660 mark.

The NSF describes itself thus:

The National Science foundation invests approximately $7 billion per year in a portfolio of more than 35,000 research and education projects in science and engineering, and is responsible for the establishment of an information base for science and engineering appropriate for development of national and international policy.

The fact that so much raw computing power was necessary to mine a relatively small number of Bitcoins is a reflection of how the days of using general-purpose computers, even powerful ones, to generate alt-currency are over. Bitcoin mining today needs specialist hardware.

None of which is going to help the legitimacy the Bitcoin industry is so desperately seeking, which is perhaps why so many with vested interests (OK, I’ve got three and a half) are trumpeting the comments by online tat-bazaar chief John Donahoe that eBay is planning on supporting Bitcoin. ®

Internet Security Threat Report 2014

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