Paying for a college education has always been a daunting task for many students that that were not fortunate to come from a background of privilege. Outside of student loans, these resourceful folks tend to find a clever way or two to earn extra cash, while completing their various curriculums of study. The method employed may be fully legitimate, but often it may border on questionable territory. A recent research report from the tech giant Cisco has revealed that college campuses account for 22% of all crypto mining activities in the U.S., placing it Number Two on Cisco’s Hit Parade.
The revelation does not come as that big of a surprise. Ingenious students, especially those preparing for careers in Information Technology, would be fully aware of how to mine tokens in the crypto space. It appears that many college attendees have figured this one out, as well as how to cut down on the major cost components of the exercise, basic computing power and electricity, and lots of it. Imagine using university computers to plug into the university utility grid, and then letting mining software to do its thing while you attended class. A few years later, you could amass quite a haul of tokens.
How did Cisco discover this underground mining economy? Per one report:
Cisco’s security researchers reportedly investigated cryptocurrency mining activity across various industry verticals. The research was carried out with Cisco’s security product Umbrella, which monitors clients’ network connections to screen malicious activity, including possibly dubious crypto mining.
Austin McBride, a Cisco threat researcher, explained why this shrewd approach to mining has reached the level that it has:
Mining difficulty for a lot of coins is very high right now — which means it costs more for electricity and internet than the profit you can produce from mining those coins. If you don’t have to pay for those costs, then you are in a really good spot for making money on the university’s dime.
This report was not the first of its kind to reveal that college campuses are a hotbed for crypto mining activity. Vectra, a cyber attack monitoring firm, had observed a similar tendency last year. It noted in its report that it had discovered in April of 2018 that “both intentional cryptocurrency mining and cryptojacking was becoming more prevalent on college campuses than in any other industry.”
What has been the reaction of university management when confronted with these facts? Officials at Stanford University in California had been aware of this activity as far back as January of 2018. The school’s chief information security officer posted warnings about crypto mining activities on campus and that university equipment and resources “must not be used for personal financial gain.”
Cisco concluded in its report:
Cryptocurrency mining is most lucrative when computing costs are minimized, which unfortunately has led to compromised systems, misused university computing equipment, and personally owned mining devices using campus power.