Some nuclear engineers working in a secret Russian nuclear facility have been arrested for using supercomputers in the facility to mine Bitcoins. Apparently, the engineers had connected a supercomputer that was not supposed to be connected to the internet due to security reasons to the web, alerting the facility’s security system, Interfax reported on February 9.
The head of the press service of research institute, Tatyana Zalesskaya said that some engineers had taken custody of the supercomputer in a bid to use it to mine the digital currency. After the protocol was breached, the unnamed engineers were arrested by the Federal Security Service. According to Tatyana, it is a technically hopeless and criminally punishable activity.
The All-Russian Research Institute for Experimental Physics at the Federal Nuclear Center, Sarov is a secret facility where the first Soviet Nuclear weapon was developed. The facility employs more than 20,000 workers and is closed to the public. Sarov has been an unmarked area with heavy military presence and perimeter fencing. Even tourists to Russia are not permitted access to the area. Workers in such facilities are usually vetted and adhere to strict operational protocol. The engineers ought to have known the standard operational practice but may have been lured by the prospect of quick digital currency gain. The facility confirmed that criminal case has been instituted by the Federal Security Service.
This is not the first time there has been reports of workers using company computers to try mining cryprocurrencies, although these have usually happened in private companies. This is the first report of staff commandeering supercomputers in such strategic facilities to take advantage of its immense computational speed. With this development, it is obvious that companies would need to spend more in terms of equipment and manpower to monitor what their workers do with their time and computational power.
The supercomputer that the engineers attempted to use in mining bitcoins has capacity of 1 petaflop calculations per second but has never been connected to the internet in order to secure the data in it. The security department of the facility got alerted when the computer was connected to the web.
Although Russia plans to legalize bitcoins, it is not yet certain how mining operations would be carried out in the country. Even at that, the passage of the law is not expected before July.
Ancestors in Ukraine
There was a high profile infraction by two officials if the Crimean Council of ministers who used government computers to try mining bitcoins but were discovered. In that instance, they were discovered by the Russian Security Service who said that the officials had used a number of computers in the government facility to attempt mining bitcoins. The discovery was made before they made any profits.
Speaking about the event, the Crimean Chairman of the Anti-corruption Committee, Alexander Akshatin said that the officials had installed a software on the government computers that made the data in them vulnerable to attack.
The Crimean incident in October of 2017 and the event of the Federal Nuclear Center last Friday highlight that this can probably become a new trend as interest in digital currencies grows.