Hardware

CYBR650 Blog #3- Cryptocurrency Mining: The Simple, Yet Risk-Filled Process

I feel that mining Bitcoin and other e-currencies is an emerging threat that not many are talking about. Due to the sheer number of devices that are being introduced with excellent hash rates, the growing values of e-currencies, and the ease of the actual mining process, I feel that we are seeing a global transition into new methods of earning money; this is especially true due to COVID-19’s decimation of many markets and the number of individuals who have lost their jobs due to the pandemic.

Every day, I hear about the effects of mining, ranging from chip shortages, excessive rates of power consumption, and the fact that graphic card prices have risen dramatically. It wasn’t long ago that I built my new PC with a $1700 graphics card, thinking I was crazy to pay that amount. Now, a few months later, that same card is selling for over $3500. What does this mean regarding cybersecurity? Let me share my thoughts.

First, the increase of individuals who are mining directly interferes with power consumption rates and the global necessity to reduce our impact on the climate; all of this places strain on our power grids which could result in overworked power plants and possibly even interfering with the regular operation of an organization’s IT assets.

Next, the increase in popularity of mining only adds fuel to the fire in security terms. Users worldwide are learning more about the PCs they have only used for endlessly scrolling through Facebook and turning them into a tool for creating passive income. These same users then download the wide variety of mining software out there, which can have viruses and open their machines to a wide variety of risk; this is important to note as many mining programs do not work well with antivirus software, thus needed exceptions to be made or even turning them off all-together. With the increase of users working from home due to COVID-19, I find this threat more prevalent.

Another potential security risk with mining is the likelihood of miners taking their mining operations into the workplace. Why mine on only your hardware when those such as myself have access to a large number of devices that I manage at work?

I suppose I should come clean that I did just take up mining myself, so I suppose I shouldn’t say too much about the negatives; however, as e-currencies become more valuable, I fear that we are not prepared to combat the rise in electricity use, the notable increase in the value of hacking someone’s machine to mine, the risks of several of the popular mining programs, and the fact that the typical user does not fully grasp what mining even is.

How easy is mining, you ask? Let me share my brief but enlightening journey into mining and show how easy it was to generate over $300 a month in profit.

Currently, I have a single RTX 3090 that can net around $300 per month per the current Bitcoin market; seems ridiculous, right? Well, this is why everything in the tech world is changing. Let me share some things I did for this experiment to show why mining cryptocurrency is so prevalent in today’s society, all coming from an individual who honestly hates this evolving science.

As mining creates tons of heat and can wear down even the best graphics cards, my first steps are improving my machine’s cooling.

First, I replaced both of my stock Phanteks intake fans with Noctua’s 140mm NF-A14 iPPC-3000 PWM Heavy Duty Cooling Fans (3000 RPM). Then, I managed to squeeze in a Noctua 80mm NF-A8 PWM Premium Quiet Fan (2200 RPM) to help feed my DeepCool 120mm fan blowing from under the case towards my graphics card (shown below).

Next, I turned my attention to the exhaust setup. My Phanteks Evolve ATX case is notoriously known for not offering the best cooling abilities.

So, I first added an extra DeepCool 120mm fan at the top as exhaust to help block some of the gaps that allow hot air to get back into the case. After that, I taped up all other gaps to ensure hot air exits. Still not satisfied, I ended up making a custom top cover for the case that will allow excellent exhaust flow while ensuring that dust does not get into my PC. As it doesn’t look amazing, I am sure I will end up making a custom metal shroud or just get a new case entirely.

Next, I have seen on the Internet that these card’s memory temperatures get quite hot during mining; one solution to this is to take the card apart and reapply thermal paste, as well as add new thermal pads. I opted out of doing this merely to keep my warranty intact, so I resorted to the next best thing. I added an old DeepCool CPU cooler directly above the card’s known hotspots, which is a mod I have seen others do with great success. At the current moment, it is just resting on the card, but some Artic thermal pads are arriving tomorrow. Still desiring to do more, I added another 80mm DeepCool fan over the exhaust port on the card; while I have not yet tested this mod’s functionality, I seem to get better temps while gaming and can even turn down the GPU’s fans for a reduction in noise.

I then added another Noctua 140mm NF-A14 iPPC-3000 PWM, Heavy Duty Cooling Fan (3000 RPM), to the rear of the case to help extract some of the GPU’s heat.

Once the thermal pads arrive tomorrow for the CPU cooler on top of the GPU, I will begin mining to see if I can net some decent profit.

New Part List

  • PNY GeForce RTX 3090
  • EVGA SuperNOVA 220-G3-0850-X1, 850w G3 PSU
  • TUF Gaming X570-Pro (Wi-Fi 6)
  • AMD Ryzen 7 5800X
  • NZXT Kraken X63 AIO 280mm
  • 2 DeepCool RF120 RGB Fans
  • 3 Noctua 140mm NF-A14 iPPC-3000 PWM, Heavy Duty Cooling Fans (3000 RPM)
  • Noctua 80mm NF-A8 PWM Premium Quiet Fan (2200 RPM)
  • DeepCool 80mm Fan mounted on an old Intel stock CPU heatsink
  • DeepCool THETA 20 PWM 100mm CPU cooler (mounted on GPU)
  • 32GB Corsair Vengeance RGB Pro DDR4-3600
  • Samsung 970 EVO SSD 1TB – M.2 NVMe
  • WD Blue 1TB HDD
  • Phanteks Evolv ATX Case
  • (Main Monitor) Gigabyte G32QC 32″ 165Hz 1440P Curved
  • (Secondary Monitor) Acer 31.5” 1080p 60hz
  • (Third Monitor) TCL 4k 55″ TV

Results

I decided to use NiceHash to first learn more about mining, and I have had some decent results so far.

As you can see, I seem to average around 119-ish MH/s, which depending on the day, can earn over $12.50 a day in BTC, so over a month, I could net around $370. I am still playing around with all the settings as the mining software seems to crash every so often. For temperatures, I have seen on the Internet that many users with 3090’s hit the thermal throttling temperature of 110 Celsius for their GPU memory junction temperature; I do not seem to even get close to having this problem. During extended periods of mining, the hottest my memory junction temperatures got was 88 Celsius.

Once my thermal pads come in today I will see if I can get my GPU’s temperatures down some more so I can play around with tweaking my PC’s settings. Overall, I can say that this project was a success. While I have only earned around $2 in BTC so far (haven’t ran it much), that first dollar earned was quite exciting.

New Results

After receiving my new Artic Thermal Tape, I wanted to change things up a bit as 88 Celsius is still pretty high to me for VRAM temps. So, I added an old Intel stock CPU cooler’s heatsink I had laying around and moved the DeepCool 80mm fan that was sitting over the GPU’s exhaust vent on top of the new heatsink; this was placed next to the other top-mounted heatsink on the GPU (covering more of the well-known memory hotspots.

I will need to take a screenshot of the new thermals, but I can safely say that the GPU memory junction temperature dropped a few more degrees, hovering around 82 Celsius. Not bad!

After more testing, I have limited my hash rate just a bit to reduce the strain on my card as this PC is currently my main rig. I am now getting around 115 MH/s, and below are my thermals.

Quite the difference!

Now you can see how effective just a single card can be while mining cryptocurrency. Just imagine the possibilities with a multi-GPU setup.

So, to summarize, mining cryptocurrencies is, well, simple. Being able to pay off my rather expensive PC build in a matter of months seems to be a win-win; however, what does all of this mean to the future of cybersecurity? I, for one, am dreading the potential impacts of this popular method of earning a passive income while only putting more strain on our fragile societies, power grids, security practices, and overall human nature.

Categories: Hardware

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