National Lab Creates Technology to Detect Cryptocurrency Mining Malware

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High performance computing systems are increasingly at risk.

Idaho National Laboratory officials invented a means to speedily detect hidden malware that exploits infected computing systems’ resources to mine digital currencies.

Now, they’re searching for an external partner with expertise to bring it to market.

“Advanced cryptocurrency mining algorithms, including Monero and Lightning, that have been surreptitiously embedded into legitimate High-Performance Computing (HPC) applications present an increasing threat to research data centers and HPC systems throughout the world,” a technology licencing opportunity post published this week reads.  

Access to the full solicitation is restricted to those who submit a contract security form, but the post offers some details about the recently produced technology.

More than 2,000 types of cryptocurrencies exist, officials wrote in the post. But mining Bitcoin and other online currencies is expensive and demands heaps of hardware. Rates of energy and electricity consumed in the practice can match those of some small countries and grow with demand. The officials point to cryptojacking—or using HPC assets without authorization to mine the money—as one way some have opted to reduce cost.

“This technology details a highly accurate algorithm for detecting cryptocurrency mining malware that may be embedded in otherwise legitimate appearing HPC applications or otherwise obfuscated,” officials wrote. Specifically, the invention “uses the attention mechanism in deep learning” to spot hidden threats.

It’s still a proof-of-concept and more testing will need to occur, but officials said the tool holds promise to help better protect increasingly targeted shared computing resources.

Those interested in licensing it are invited to respond by March 10.