Supercomputers hijacked to mine cryptocurrency

19 May 2020

Cryptocurrencies European supercomputers working to find a vaccine for the coronavirus were remotely hijacked last week for the purpose of mining cryptocurrency, it was reported by ZDNet on Tuesday.

“Supercomputers across the EU were compromised by a string of malware attacks that required a shut down after it was discovered they were being used for crypto mining – also known as cryptojacking. The hackers had gained entry via stolen SSH (remote access) credentials from individuals authorized to operate the machines,” reports CoinTelegraph.

Chris Doman, co-founder of Cado Security, told ZDNet that the malware was designed to use the supercomputers' power to mine Monero XMR cryptocurrency. 

As noted by ZDNet, many of the supercomputers that were forced to shut down as a result of the breach were also being used to conduct research on COVID-19.  In particular, researchers have been using the computers to help develop a possible vaccine. 

While none of the organizations whose supercomputers were affected by these security incidents have published any details on them, the Computer Security Incident Response Team (CSIRT) for the European Grid Infrastructure (EGI) has released malware samples and network compromise indicators for some of the hacks.

This isn’t the first time that malware has been loaded onto supercomputers in an effort to mine cryptocurrency, but it is the first time that it has been carried out by hackers, it is believed.

Previous incidents involved staff members installing malware for their own financial gain. 

Earlier this year a group calling themselves ‘Outlaw’ began infiltrating Linux-based enterprise systems in the U.S. in order to hijack personal computing power and mine XMR.