According to a report by the National Science Foundation (NSF) delivered to Congress, two of the nation's most powerful supercomputers were illegally used to mine bitcoin, allegedly by a researcher who says he was running a test.
The NSF, who employed the researcher, disagrees. It says that the universities never gave the researcher the authority to use the supercomputers to mine cryptocurrencies. The researcher has since lost his supercomputer access and has been suspended from all government work.
But not before managing to generate around USD $10,000 worth of bitcoins, which was not nearly enough to cover the USD $150,000 electricity bill he or she cost the universities by running the systems. That seems to be the key point to the scam: the University had to cover the cost of mining the coins, not the researcher. USD $10,000 in Bitcoin certainly isn't a bad nest egg to have hidden away somewhere, especially after being banned from all government work, like the accused researcher.
It also showcases the dominance of ASIC (Application Specific Integrated Circuit) machines in the bitcoin mining world. ASIC miners are designed specifically to mine cryptocurrencies. As it turns out, not even one of the most powerful multipurpose machines in the world can keep up enough to offset its electricity costs.
Remember that next time your friend tells you about how much bitcoin he will be mining with his gaming desktop.
This also isn't the first time bitcoin has been mined through nefarious means. An e-Sports app was busted for slipping mining malware on its customers' laptops, a few websites have been using it as an alternative to ads and there have been at least two high profile (but perhaps not all that successful) iterations of bitcoin mining malware on mobile devices.
As ASIC miners become more dominant, malware installed on multipurpose devices will be even less effective. This has prompted some to wonder if malware and cyber criminals will begin to attack cryptocurrencies from another angle, perhaps targeting private keys themselves.