Updated March 2021.

Not real money of course, but a version of the digital currencies that seem to be always in the news at the moment. A student who has not been named in Imperial College London, one of the UK’s top Universities has been sneakily setting up all the computers to mine dogecoins for his account.  This is one of the very newest digital currencies, and ironically one which was initially setup as a joke.  That seems to be changing now though, in December 2020 Elon Musk even tweeted in support of Dogecoin. He actually suggested that it might one day become the major currency of the planet.  It was largely believed to be a joke but the value of the crypto currency soared anyway.

Crypto crime

The cryptocurrency is one tipped to one day replace bitcoins and become the ipso facto standard for digital currency, although it should be added there are quite a few of those! Mining refers to the act of solving computer algorithms which earn the user dogecoin credits. It’s normally not worth mining many of these currencies as normally the costs of the cpus and electricity used are more than the value of the currency mined. However obviously if someone else is paying all the bills, then the economics of it change drastically.  Basically the costs in mining most crypto currency are energy and resource based, so if you can use these for free you can’t really lose (unless you get caught of course).

As the value and potential of these currencies rise then incidents like these are likely to increase too. It’s the second report in a week we’ve seen of these sort of events although I’m sure there are many more. For example some years ago, in Harvard somebody tied up the college’s supercomputer – Odyssey to do exactly the same thing. Obviously there is a huge problem for college’s with the events as the computers are effectively not available to other students for more legitimate uses. As many have found college computer resources are often not entirely used for their specified purpose.

The simple fact that many overlook in committing these crimes, is the perception that the coins are anonymous.  Although that’s only partly true – gaining and using computers themselves is rarely anonymous – access can normally be tracked very easily.  Even if you don’t use physical access like entering the buildings and using the computers directly – you’re still not safe.  Remote access is usually fairly easy to trace unless you use privacy tools like next gen proxies or VPNs with military grade encryption.  This can hide your connection details if you do it right, most people involved in stuff like this rarely cover their track with any sort of proxy however.

The student in Imperial has now been banned from using the research computing facilities for the foreseeable future – the college issued a statement that such uses was strictly forbidden. Unfortunately for the student involved his 30,000 Dogecoins that he has produced using this method will hardly be sufficient reward – they are currently worth approximately £20!  It should be mentioned that now, the value has risen considerably but probably not enough to justify the crime.  The value now would be nearer £200 a slightly more respectable value, although if Bitcoins had been mined they would be worth considerably more.

There are similar ‘crimes’ taking place in other areas too, harnessing other peoples computers and networks can be very lucrative.  From creation of huge Bot networks which are rented out online, to running things like ticket proxies for running multiple accounts to buy things like concert tickets and sneakers.