According to security researchers at Cisco who have been tracking the mining of cryptocurrencies across different industry verticals, college campuses rank second behind the energy and utility sector.
Cisco’s research found that the energy sector accounted for 34 percent of cryptocurrency mining, in terms of industry division. It was followed by college campuses, which bring in 22 percent. The other notable sectors in the list include Healthcare, Media, Local Governments, Financial Services, and the Manufacturing sector.
Austin McBride, a threat researcher with Cisco stated,
“You leave [the mining rig] running in your dorm room for four years, you walk out of college with a big chunk of change.”
Since university students have free electricity while on campus, they can indulge in the mining of virtual currencies without any significant cost overheads. McBride concurred that cryptocurrency mining rigs can easily be set up in dorm rooms or the library, allowing these students to mine cryptocurrencies at a lower expense than the general average.
“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.”
Umbrella, the IT company’s security product, tracked the mining across the verticals for the aforementioned research. The product can detect any malicious activity on a client’s network connection, including if any user is covertly mining cryptocurrencies on the network.
McBride further added that cryptocurrency mining on campuses was not restricted to students alone. Many hackers, he said, routinely broke into vulnerable networks with malware to mine cryptocurrencies on the university’s network.
He added that most companies operating in the energy and utility sector use outdated computers, making it easier for many to infect the network with mining malware to facilitate the illegal mining of cryptocurrencies.
Campuses and universities aren’t new to illegal mining activities on their network though. Back in January 2018, Stanford had issued a notice to its students, warning them to not mine cryptocurrencies, specifically Bitcoin [BTC] and Ethereum [ETH] for personal gain using the university’s resources.