‘Free’ Money: How Students Mine Cryptocurrency in Their Dorm Rooms

Last month, reports surfaced on crypto mining research conducted by tech conglomerate Cisco with the following headline: “College kids are using campus electricity to mine crypto.”

Indeed, many students don’t have to worry about paying power bills, as per their university housing contracts, which tend to cover electricity expenses. That “free” power allows them to host cost-efficient mining rigs, where the only expense is the actual hardware. It almost seems too good to be true: Mining students receive a passive income, which can potentially cover the purchase of a few textbooks — or even pay for the whole semester and more.

However, there’s a catch: No electricity is actually free, and someone ultimately has to pay the price.

How popular is mining among students?

Cisco’s security researchers investigated cryptocurrency mining activity across various industry verticals. The research was carried out with the company’s cloud security platform Umbrella, which monitors clients’ network connections to screen malicious activity, allegedly revealing incidents of crypto mining.

According to the findings, university campuses are the second-biggest miners of virtual currency across industry verticals at 22 percent, second only to the energy and utilities sector, with about 34 percent.

As Cointelegraph reported, miner revenues began to wane in 2018 (the last full year for statistics), thanks to the crypto winter and its attendant price drop. That made mining less profitable. But hash rates have continued to increase, indicating that the global mining pool continues to grow, even as individual miners come and go.

Cisco threat researcher Austin McBride explained the trend to PCMag, saying that "you leave [the mining rig] running in your dorm room for four years, you walk out of college with a big chunk of change."

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