Cryptocurrency Mining is Heating Up on College Campuses

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Mining Comes to Campus

With each successive generation of university students, new trends come to the fore of campus life.  In the 60s, it was Vietnam War protests and drug-infused counterculture; in the 70s, bell bottoms and bowl cuts; in the 80s, questionable fashion choices and electronica; in the 90s, the grunge scene and console gaming; in the 2000s, online social media and internet culture.

Now?  Well, students are getting their beer money from Bitcoin mining, and they’re doing it in the comforts of their dorm rooms, a report by Vectra Networks, Inc. reveals.

Strange as it may sound, it seems fitting.  After all, millennials are the most active cryptocurrency investors in the United States, with some 1-in-5 using their student loans to invest in Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies. So if students are willing to take such a risk as leveraging their student debt to profit off crypto, it’s easy to see why they would find on-campus mining attractive, especially since this setup minimizes operation costs.

Indeed, students take to mining so much partly because their dorms offer free electricity, the make-or-break factor in many a miner’s operational overhead.  With free power, most college miners only need to front hardware costs, so they can realize greater profits than those who have to pay for electricity, as well.

“Students are more likely to perform crypto mining personally as they don’t pay for power, the primary cost of crypto mining,” Chris Morales, head of security analytics at Vectra told the New York Post.

In their report, Vectra found that a staggering 60% of all industry-specific mining comes from university or higher education networks, with the second largest contributors only tallying 3% each (healthcare and finance).

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For some university IT departments, this has caused headaches in the past, and certain colleges, such as Stanford, have taken it upon themselves to warn students against the practice lest the school effect disciplinary measures.

And these universities have more to worry about than just curtailing student mining operations. While these students comprise the bulk of higher education’s mining power, malware infected systems are also to blame.  The study found that 542 out of 10,000 devices connected to university networks were infected with some form of malware, citing some 3,715 separate attacks and events.  Some of these were no doubt the product of remote mining operations, as hackers have become increasingly fond of malware that targets individual devices to mine cryptocurrency on the victim’s dime.

As the market has struggled in recent months, though, miners are finding it harder to turn profits, even those students with access to free electricity.  With mining’s profitability in decline along with Bitcoin’s price, dorm room mining operations might be on the decline, as well–for now at least.  Until the market recovers, it’s likely that students will shut down the hardware and look for more fruitful ventures elsewhere, something administrators will no doubt be happy to see.


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