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Crypto-Mining Campaign Hits European Supercomputers

Several supercomputers across Europe were taken offline last week after being targeted in what appears to be a crypto-mining campaign.

Several supercomputers across Europe were taken offline last week after being targeted in what appears to be a crypto-mining campaign.

In a notice on Saturday, the Swiss National Supercomputing Centre (CSCS) revealed that it too has been hit, along with other “HPC [High Performance Computing] and academic data centres of Europe and around the world.”

CSCS said it detected malicious activity related to these attacks and it has decided to suspend external access until the issue is addressed.

“We are currently investigating the illegal access to the centre. Our engineers are actively working on bringing back the systems as soon as possible to reduce the impact on our users to a minimum” CSCS Director Thomas Schulthess commented.

While CSCS’ notice says that the background of the attack is currently unclear, the European Grid Infrastructure (EGI) security team issued an alert claiming that the purpose of the attack is cryptocurrency mining.

EGI mentions two security incidents “that may or may not be correlated,” which impact academic data centers, revealing that compromised SSH credentials are being used by the attackers to jump from a victim to another.

As part of the assaults, compromised hosts are being used as Monero (XMR) mining hosts, as XMR-proxy and SOCKS-proxy hosts, and as tunnel hosts (for SSH tunneling), EGI’s team explains.

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EGI has provided indicators of compromise, while security researcher Tillmann Werner has provided an analysis of the malware, along with YARA rules.

The attacks targeted multiple victims in Germany, including the Jülich Supercomputing Centre (JSC)-maintained JURECA, JUDAC, and JUWELS, the HPC systems at Leibniz Supercomputing Centre (LRZ), the Taurus supercomputer at the Technical University in Dresden, and five HPC clusters coordinated by bwHPC, among others.

The ARCHER supercomputer in the UK was one of the first victims, while other targets are located in Poland, Spain, and China. Cado Security notes that the attackers might have targeted victims in the United States as well.

The attacks appear to be financially motivated, although nation-states were initially suspected of targeting the supercomputers, for espionage on COVID-19 research.

Related: Access to UK Supercomputer Suspended Following Cyberattack

Related: US Says China Trying to Steal COVID-19 Vaccine Research

Related: Kinsing Linux Malware Deploys Crypto-Miner in Container Environments

Written By

Ionut Arghire is an international correspondent for SecurityWeek.

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