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Coronavirus: Hackers hijack supercomputers and disrupt research

Hackers disrupt COVID-19 research by remotely hijacking supercomputers across Europe to steal computing power for cryptocurrency mining

  • Hackers infiltrated supercomputers across Europe to mine cryptocurrency
  • The breaches were discovered over the course of the last week
  • Many of those computers were being used to research COVID-19 vaccines 
  • Here’s how to help people impacted by Covid-19

Supercomputers across Europe were forced to shut down after a string of malware compromises attempted to hijack computing power for mining cryptocurrency. 

According to a report from ZDNet, supercomputers in UK, Germany and Switzerland, and potentially a high-performance computer in Spain, were all affected by similar breaches in which nodes controlling clusters of computers were infected with malware.

The breaches occurred at different points over the past week, ZDNet reports. 

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

Hackers breached supercomputers across Europe in an effort to hijack computing power for a cryptocurrency mining operation (Stock photo)

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.

Specifically, researchers have been using the computers to help develop a viable vaccine. 

Hackers reportedly gained access to the computers via SSH credentials stolen from people who were authorized to run processes on the machines.

Those credentials belonged to researchers in Canada, Poland and China, ZDNet, reports.

While security researchers say they haven’t been able to concretely link the hacks to the same groups, similarities between the type of malware and other ‘network indicators’ suggest the efforts may be coordinated. 

As noted by ZDNet, this isn’t the first time that malware has been loaded onto supercomputers in an effort to mine cryptocurrency, but it’s the first time that it’s been carried out by hackers.

Supercomputers around the world are being used to speed up the search for a treatment for the deadly coronavirus (stock)

Supercomputers around the world are being used to speed up the search for a treatment for the deadly coronavirus (stock)

Previous incidents involved employees installing malware for their own personal gain. 

As noted by ZDNet, in 2018, Russian authorities arrested engineers at the Russia Nuclear Center after they were discovered using the agency’s supercomputer to mine cryptocurrency.