From investigating COVID-19 to mining cryptocurrencies: European supercomputers under attack


David Ortiz – May 18, 2020 – 17: 24 (CET)

Some of the European supercomputers that were investigating the coronavirus, hacked to mine cryptocurrencies like Monero.

De investigar la COVID-19 a minar criptomonedas: las supercomputadoras europeas, bajo ataque
BwUniCluster 2.0 | bwHPC

Some of the most cutting-edge research centers in Europe have seen, during the last week, how their computer equipment with which they investigate COVID – 19 They go off completely to avoid mining cryptocurrencies. Several of the hacked supercomputers are located in the UK, Germany or Switzerland , although there is also talk of a center in Spain that could be affected.

It was recounted Bloomberg the past Friday, and from ZDNet added more details of This new chain of attacks is synchronized.

Supercomputers hacked, and turned off

According to the statements of one of the employees in these centers that collects Bloomberg , “the attackers wanted to either obtain intellectual property or simply curb efforts to combat COVID.” In ZDNet , however, they point to a much more concrete and lucrative possibility in the short term: undermine the Monero cryptocurrency . It is also one of the most opaque among the thousands that exist.

It was last Monday at the University of Edinburgh, which manages the Archer supercomputer, in the United Kingdom. This team has nothing less than 118. 080 Processing cores and stopped since then. Like him, the German bwHPC claimed on the same date to have up to five hacked and currently unavailable supercomputers in several high-performance centers in the country.

In the Swiss supercomputing center is another of those affected by this attack. Among his ongoing projects, he has recently been awarded to combat COVID – 19 , with the equivalent of hundreds of millions of hours of computation. Among its functions is the study of the small protein membrane of the coronavirus.

The German researcher Felix von Leitner recently told in a publication that, according to his contacts, one of the centers could also have been attacked computer in Barcelona . This city will host MareNostrum 5, one of the three supercomputers to be financed in the European Union. It is expected to be operational by the end of the year.

This still-unidentified coordinated attack contrasts with the recent deployment of Folding @ Home as the world's largest aggregate supercomputer . Hundreds of thousands of users add their teams' capabilities to add computing power to deal with coronaviruses and other diseases that depend on calculating the folding of complex molecules such as proteins.

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