South-America based hacking group Lapsus$ is threatening to disclose software and firmware data for Nvidia's LHR (Lite Hash Rate) mining performance limiter. The new information, gleaned from alleged screenshots from the group's Telegram activity, comes hot on the heels of last week's Nvidia hack - the details of which the company is keeping close to its chest. But the group appears to be confident in the quality of the stolen data, as they've already put up an announcement for the sale of data that could enable the bypass of Nvidia's LHR as implemented on the company's GA102 and GA104 chips.
Should Lapsus$' threat come to pass, that would mean that every Nvidia 3000-series card ranging from the RTX 3060 through the RTX 3090 could be again turned into a 100% mining performance powerhouse. Besides the obvious, immediate implications of higher profit rates for already-deployed mining systems, it's unclear how this move would affect the graphics card market. Considering how Ethereum's move to Proof of Stake - referred to as The Merge - is expected to conclude in the first half of this year, anyone investing in extra cryptocurrency mining hardware - read, Nvidia graphics cards - would have a limited time to make their investment back and actually turn a profit. This rings particularly true considering the cryptocurrency market's overall downtrend since the start of the year.
That could deter many miners from actually doing another run at graphics cards - even as the market slowly returns to normal after more than two years of terrible supply and pricing scenarios. It is however interesting that the group is asking Nvidia to remove the LHR limiter by themselves, in exchange for a "HW folder" of stolen data not being leaked and distributed. Why the group would ask Nvidia to lift the mining limiter by themselves when the group claims to be selling an unlocker of sorts for most of Nvidia's RTX 3000-series line-up is unclear, and could cast some doubts on the legitimacy of the claims.
Lapsus$ seems to be doing what it can to pressure Nvidia to the negotiating table - whilst seemingly playing to the approval of the cryptocurrency mining community. The group claims to have stolen one Terabyte of sensitive information, including product schematics, driver and firmware data, documentation, private tools and SDKs (Software Development Kits), as well as "everything about Falcon". Falcon is a special class of microcontroller that ships inside all Nvidia GPUs, and takes on a variety of roles ranging from video decoding to memory copying - to security. Depending on the sensitivity of the stolen data, Falcon could thus be rendered an ineffective defense. The group claims that it still hasn't been contacted by Nvidia, and have in the meantime distributed part of the stolen data. Sources who have accessed said data have said it matches the group's claims.
There's at least the suspicion that the group's claims are true, and that they have indeed obtained valuable data within the 1 TB claimed to have been stolen. Nvidia's continued silence on the matter - saying only it's "investigating an incident" - isn't the usual corporation response in such cases. Even less so is the purported reverse-hack Nvidia reportedly conducted on Lapsus$, where they attempted to ransomware their data back from the group. This has been confirmed by Lapsus$; but the group claims to already have copied and backed-up the data before the attempted intrusion, rendering Nvidia's efforts fruitless. This cloak-and-dagger, back-and-forth dance between a mega-corporation such as Nvidia and a hacking group isn't par of the course - perhaps Nvidia really is taking a long time to assess how exactly this could impact its business. That, in turn, likely means the impact wouldn't be negligible.