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US Government Bans Researcher for Supercomputer Bitcoin Mining

(@pete_rizzo_) | Published on June 5, 2014 at 19:00 GMT

A National Science Foundation (NSF) researcher has been barred from working with the US government following the discovery that he used federally funded supercomputers to mine bitcoin without authorization.

The administrative action was revealed as part of the latest NSF Office of Inspector General (OIG) report issued to Congress and recently posted online.

The unnamed researcher is alleged to have used more than $150,000 in NSF-supported computer activity to generate an estimated $8,000 to $10,000 in BTC.

The researcher asserted that he was simply conducting tests on the supercomputers, but both of his affiliated universities denied that they had authorized such actions.

Further, the report asserts that investigations lead to evidence that the individual had taken steps to hide the mining efforts, stating:

"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 report summary concluded by indicating that the NSF has been suspended from providing any further work to any US government body.

Unanswered questions

The NSF OIG report suggested that the abuse was uncovered by the agency after it received reports about the unauthorized activity.

However, no further details about how these discoveries were made were provided.

The report also gave a basic overview of bitcoin, noting that it is a "virtual currency that is independent of national currencies", and that it can be converted into real currencies using certain exchanges.

Increasing incidents

The announcement, while notable, is not the first time that a researcher has been reprimanded for using cutting-edge computers without permission to mine digital currencies.

This February a Harvard researcher was barred from accessing any of the university's research computing facilities after he was caught mining dogecoin.

University computers have also become a magnet for students looking to generate digital currencies using advanced equipment and the free power universities provide. For example, in late April, Iowa State University indicated that its computer security systems were compromised by students attempting to mine bitcoin.

Hat tip to Bitcoin Magazine

Supercomputer via Shutterstock

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