Each evening, ‘Felix’ sneaks into the computer suite at his university and starts up the machines. One by one, he runs a script on each computer and his ‘workers’ begin solving complex algorithms.
You wouldn’t know just by looking, but he’s making his own money – using his university’s computers to mine dogecoin.
Felix’s story mirrors that of a Harvard researcher who used his university’s supercomputer for dogecoin mining, earning himself a permanent ban from the computer and, presumably, a heck of a lot of coins in the process.
Like others who came onto the cryptocurrency scene late, Felix (not his real name), says he was gutted about “completely missing the bitcoin craze”. Mining dogecoin is his chance at getting on the gravy train while the price is low and riding it all the way to the moon – he hopes.
Dodging the IT department
After giving his laptop a shot at mining dogecoin before Christmas, he returned to his university, Imperial College London, after the holidays with a plan: he would use rows upon rows of university computers as his personal mining pool. So far he’s managed to sneak under the radar, he says:
“I've not had a single issue yet, so I've kept scaling up! It seems they don't have anything set up to bring attention to the fact I'm maxing out the CPUs, which is nice.”
Felix mines using an online pool, meaning that his efforts are combined with others through a website. After installing a program on to each computer, their individual processing power is counted towards his single online account, allowing him to combine many computers with very little technical know-how.
Although he is able to dodge the Symantec security software guarding the computers for CPU mining, Felix says that he has been unable to utilise the graphic cards, which would allow him to tap into yet another level of computing power.
He hasn’t tried to crack the graphics cards’ defenses yet, as he doesn’t want to draw attention to himself, so to-date he’s only had access to i7-2770k processors.
It’s unclear what repercussions Felix would face if caught. Unlike the researcher who used Harvard’s supercomputer, Felix is mining with standard desktop computers used by students for coursework and browsing reddit, not in-demand research technology.
Running unauthorised scripts when everyone’s gone home might irk the IT department, not to mention the electricity he has been burning, but it’s perhaps the least immoral tactic people have used to leverage large numbers of computers for mining without permission.
The amount he’s mined so far is fairly modest: just 30,000 DOGE, which currently holds a value of just £20 ($33). His strategy is to build up a large stock of dogecoin and hope the price rises spectacularly as it did with bitcoin.
Buying himself a specialised miner is out of the question, says Felix:
“I don't find the cryptocurrency market stable enough to make real investments, at least for now, on a student budget.”
The ease with which mining operations can be set up, combined with the ready availability at universities of large amounts of computing power, suggest that Felix is by no means the only student mining in this way. Indeed, the Harvard supercomputer and Imperial’s computing suites may just be the tip of the iceberg.
Perhaps it’s even time the universities themselves got in on the game – what better way to fill the funding gap caused by government cuts than with Shiba Inu-branded digital currency? Sure beats raising tuition fees again.
Hacker image via Shutterstock