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posted by n1 on Wednesday June 11 2014, @03:56AM   Printer-friendly [Skip to comment(s)]
from the not-for-profit dept.

Tim Hornyak reports that National Science Foundation (NSF) has banned a researcher for using supercomputer resources to generate bitcoin. According to the semiannual report to Congress by the NSF Office of Inspector General, the computationally intensive mining used about $150,000 worth of NSF-supported computer use at the two universities to generate bitcoins worth about $8,000 to $10,000 (PDF). The universities told the NSF that the work was unauthorized, reporting that the researcher accessed the computers remotely, even using a mirror site in Europe, possibly to conceal his identity. "The researcher's access to all NSF-funded supercomputer resources was terminated," the office wrote. "In response to our recommendation, NSF suspended the researcher government-wide."

The incident follows a similar case in February in which a researcher at Harvard University was caught using supercomputer resources to mine dogecoin. The researcher was barred from accessing the computer resources.

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  • (Score: 2) by keplr on Wednesday June 11 2014, @05:17AM

    by keplr (2104) on Wednesday June 11 2014, @05:17AM (#54022) Journal

    Misappropriating computer resources. It's basically the same thing as when I play solitaire on my work computer. These heathen scientists don't realize that every clock cycle is sacred!

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    • (Score: 5, Insightful) by Tork on Wednesday June 11 2014, @06:43AM

      by Tork (3914) on Wednesday June 11 2014, @06:43AM (#54036)
      "It's basically the same thing as when I play solitaire on my work computer." I don't think you were caught playing solitaire because your boss saw the power-bill.
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  • (Score: -1, Offtopic) by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday June 11 2014, @06:01AM

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday June 11 2014, @06:01AM (#54030)

    which probably incurs costs to society like $150,000 to $1 or so. On the other hand that's a problem that cannot be fixed as the windoze computers must be kept vulnerable so the NSA can milk them for lolcats.

  • (Score: 2) by aristarchus on Wednesday June 11 2014, @06:53AM

    by aristarchus (2645) on Wednesday June 11 2014, @06:53AM (#54037) Journal

    Yes, we use 150 thousand public units to generate 8 thousand private units for me! Moohaahaa haa! And I want One Million bitcoin! And sharks with laser beams on their heads!!! Schnell! (Note, if you ever find your fellow public employee speaking in phrases that even remotely resemble these, it is time to call for outside help. FBI, Secret Service, or MiB. Just saying.)

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    • (Score: 3, Insightful) by Thexalon on Wednesday June 11 2014, @01:04PM

      by Thexalon (636) on Wednesday June 11 2014, @01:04PM (#54105)

      What makes this unusual is that (1) the mechanism is science grant funding rather than the more typical government contracting, (2) they got caught, and (3) the authorities care about it.

      Seriously, when you look at how government contracts actually tend to happen, it's basically ridiculously large sums charged to the taxpayers in exchange for a much smaller but still huge amount going to favored individuals via a private company. Whether something useful is produced in this process is largely besides the point of the effort.

      --
      The inverse of "I told you so" is "Nobody could have predicted"
      • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday June 11 2014, @02:01PM

        by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday June 11 2014, @02:01PM (#54134)

        You clearly are ignorant how NSF (or most government, for that matter) contracts work and how they are set up. (Hint: it isn't consistent with your "evil government" meme in your head, but go an an keep believing that if it works for you).

        • (Score: 2) by Thexalon on Wednesday June 11 2014, @03:12PM

          by Thexalon (636) on Wednesday June 11 2014, @03:12PM (#54178)

          Here's what I know about government contracting:
          - I know that in my county government, the way it happened for years was that any would-be contractors had to first do work for free on the home of the county commissioner, and then would be awarded contracts without a whole lot of checking on whether any work was getting done. This was all determined in a court of law.

          - I know that in another area of my state, the Congressman got a large campaign contribution from a defense supplier in the area. Said Congressman then snuck into a bill a requirement that the US Army buy a lot of what said defense supplier was making, despite the fact that the army didn't want any more of what they were selling.

          - I know of at least one case where the RFP was carefully worded in such a way that only one company could possibly fulfill the requirements, and the person who worded the RFP in that way left government work for a very nice $300K a year job at that single company.

          So yeah, I'm not saying all government contracting is corrupt, but a lot of it is. I understand that there are safeguards and Inspectors General and the like, but I also understand that there are lots and lots of people doing everything they can to get around those safeguards, because there's just a huge enough pile of money available that corruption is inevitable.

          This isn't unique to government: Corporations that are large enough for executives to have significant departmental budgets and/or a purchasing department run into exactly the same sorts of problems, because it's so darn profitable for individuals to look the other way even if the corporation as a whole would get hurt by it.

          --
          The inverse of "I told you so" is "Nobody could have predicted"
    • (Score: 2) by khallow on Wednesday June 11 2014, @03:19PM

      by khallow (3766) Subscriber Badge on Wednesday June 11 2014, @03:19PM (#54180) Journal

      Well, it's worth noting that 150k "public units" is probably at least a factor of ten less in "private units" and usually goes to private parties anyway. I'd say this is typical return on investment.

  • (Score: 5, Interesting) by tynin on Wednesday June 11 2014, @11:20AM

    by tynin (2013) on Wednesday June 11 2014, @11:20AM (#54077) Journal

    One of the supercomputers I tend to has just over 6000 Xeon E5620 processors. Each can do 26.4 kh/s mining scrypt. That works out to 154 mh/s of scrypt hashing goodness. Every Sunday from 2am till 8am is their maintenance window... and that is just one of the supercomputers...

    I just cannot bring myself to do it, even during maintenance. I like my paycheck more than I would like a few more dogecoins. Though ~6 months ago when things were much more profitable, the temptation was palpable.