Someone at Harvard has been misusing the university's powerful computing resources for nefarious purposes: mining the joke "Dogecoin" cryptocurrency. The Crimson reports this individual has been banned from using the systems ever again — but not before he or she made away with quite a few coins.
Dogecoin (named after the incredulous shiba inu meme) is the most popular of the less serious descendants of Bitcoin, jokingly exchanged online among users — but also worth enough money that the community was able to help sponsor two Indian Olympic athletes. Like Bitcoin, Dogecoin ("doge" for short) is produced by "mining" programs that use computing power to solve complex cryptographic problems — awarding the user with coins in proportion to his or her contribution of CPU power.
An ordinary computer won't earn much, but supercomputers and "clusters" of connected processors are capable of doing many times more work. The latter is just what Harvard has; the university's Odyssey cluster combines the power of 14,000 processing cores.
Some enterprising Dogecoin user (it is not indicated whether he or she was a student, faculty, or other) decided to employ Odyssey in the pursuit of mining, but was quickly found out. Yet even an hour or two on such a powerful system could have yielded a considerable amount of doge, which the perpetrator is free to keep — like Bitcoin, it is difficult to seize or return against the owner's will.
Odyssey and Harvard's other research computers, like those of many universities and organizations, are strictly for academic purposes, and using them for personal gain is obviously frowned upon. The offending miner is permanently banned from using research computing facilities, though there do not appear to be any further legal or academic consequences — other than having to return to mining doge from home.
First published February 21 2014, 4:11 PM
Devin Coldewey is a contributing writer at NBC News; he started his role in April of 2013. Coldewey is responsible for original reporting on a number of tech topics, such as photography, biotechnology, and Internet policy.
Coldewey joined NBCNews.com from TechCrunch, where he was an editor covering a similarly wide variety of content and industries. His personal website is coldewey.cc.