‘Thought it was a grey area’: NUS student packs up crypto-mining rigs in dorm after fellow resident got caught


SINGAPORE – He had been mining cryptocurrencies in his college dormitory since September last year, but the freshman at the National University of Singapore (NUS) finally packed his gear when he discovered on Monday (April 11) that a fellow NUS A resident of the campus was under investigation for doing the same.

The 21-year-old engineer, who did not want to be identified, is staying in a single room in one of NUS’s University City (UTown) dormitories. He bought the “mining platforms” of cryptocurrencies for about A $ 12,000 and installed them in his room, leaving them running all day.

These “mining platforms” are used to facilitate transactions in Bitcoin and other digital currencies.

He had been reading about cryptocurrencies for several years, but did not have the proper resources to mine coins until he had his own bedroom.

That was until he discovered in a NUS email on Monday that cryptocurrency mining platforms were found last week in a unit of UTown Residence, a student dormitory located in UTown.

It was also stated in the email that cryptographic mining platforms were strictly banned.

“I thought it was a gray area, because (the university) didn’t explicitly ban mining, so it was definitely not what I expected,” the NUS student said, adding that the university should add a “new rule” to state explicitly that mining would not be allowed.

According to the housing agreement for residents of the NUS hostel, it states that “the use of heating and food preparation appliances, water beds, private air conditioners, air coolers and any other material not expressly approved by the Management is prohibited in the hostel. ”.

In response to the clause, the student said many students bring their own items, such as coffee machines and hair dryers, and it is not possible to apply for approval for each of the items a student takes to the hostel.

“After all, a mining platform is just a personal computer with more graphics processing units (components that process data),” he said.

The e-mail to the students indicated that the university has taken a serious stance in the face of such violations and that “disciplinary action will be firmly enforced for non-compliance.”

“As they said we can’t do it, I’d rather not risk it, so I took it all home (Tuesday night),” the student added.

NUS also said in the email to students that mining devices “consume extremely high levels of energy, which can overload our electrical circuit boards and cause power outages.”

“The most important thing is that the higher than normal heat level emitted by these devices poses a greater risk of fire,” he added.

Although he pays the same fee as all other resident students, the student believes that the electricity consumed by the mining platforms far exceeds that used by the average student.

He added that the platforms emit “a lot” of heat, enough to make your room noticeably warmer.

The NUS Housing Agreement also states that “activities involving the possession or possession of chemicals, biocomposites, 3D printers, etc. that may cause fires, explosions, release of toxic materials or any kind of danger are strictly prohibited. neighbors “.

However, he insisted that he did his research and took precautions to minimize the risk of fire, claiming that cryptographic mining does not constitute such activity.

“I selected the components … that have a lot of security features,” he said. “I scrutinized it and bought the highest quality materials (materials) I could find.”

He also bought a “fireball” and placed it near the platform. He said the ball will explode in case of fire and extinguish the flames.

CRYPTO-MINE “NOT EXPANDED” IN BEDROOMS

Cryptographic mining is not a new phenomenon, as it has been for several years. TODAY reported in 2018 that fully assembled cryptographic mining kits were selling fast in Sim Lim Square.

However, cryptographic mining on campus did not appear to be a widespread phenomenon.

The engineering student said TODAY that the cost of buying the equipment was too high for many to bear, and that it was not an effort that many people boast about because they may not be sure if it is allowed on campus.

Two residents at the UTown residence, where the cryptocurrency devices were discovered, told TODAY that they were unaware of the mining activities until the university’s email on Monday.

One student Daniel, who preferred not to give his last name, said his main concern is the danger of fire.

However, he considered that the electrical cost of operating the device was not justified either.

“I think it’s right that it’s banned because NUS is paying for electricity,” said the 25-year-old engineering freshman.

NON-PROFIT ACTIVITY WITHOUT “FREE ENERGY SOURCE, RENT”

Verdy Yong, an information technology and cryptography enthusiast for more than 20 years who previously owned his own cryptocurrency mining facility, said now mining cryptocurrencies has become a more complex task compared to five years ago, making it difficult. that miners can make a profit.

He explained that cryptographic mining platforms use hardware to solve equations that validate cryptocurrency transactions, and solving these equations gets rewards for miners.

However, the equations are “increasingly complex” as the network of people seeking to undermine cryptocurrencies increases, as has been the case in recent years.

“The harder it is (the equation), the more energy it takes to solve it and the team needs to run for longer,” he added.

In doing so, it consumes a lot of energy and releases a lot of heat.

Most cryptographic mining facilities would not be profitable now, given the costs of electricity and rent.

For example, a typical six-platform mining platform Yong revealed that the graphics processing units would consume about A $ 232 in electricity bills per month. This is the equivalent of the energy consumed by 6.5 domestic refrigerators in the same period.

Yong also said that a college dorm could be an attractive place for cryptographic miners because of the amenities students have.

“It’s profitable because (students) aren’t paying much for electricity and there’s no rent (specifically) for the start-up of the mining platforms,” he said.

The NUS student who packed his equipment on Tuesday said that despite his months of cryptocurrency mining while avoiding high overheads, the cryptocurrency he got with his company would make him a profit of just about 1,000 Australian dollars.

“Recently, the market has been pretty bad … it hasn’t been very lucrative given the effort.”

He plans to sell all the equipment, because the company would be even less profitable if he mines at home and has to pay for the electricity consumed.

Allen Li, chief engineer of the ADDX digital stock exchange, said the creation of cryptographic mining platforms in “home configurations” such as dormitories could be dangerous because it could be “difficult to ensure proper ventilation measures in a small space.”

For example, household appliances, such as curtains, can catch fire if they are too close to an overheated platform.

“Mining platforms typically operate 24 hours a day, 7 days a day, which can lead to power outages if the residence cannot withstand the high levels of energy consumption,” he added.

TODAY has contacted Nanyang University of Technology and Singapore University of Management, which have residences and dormitories, on their respective rules on cryptographic mining.



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