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Australian Contractor Sentenced for Mining Crypto on State Computers

australian police
australian police

Australian law enforcement authorities have charged a former government worker who used his access to state facilities to mine digital assets.

A Lucky Break for Khoo

According to a report from the Sydney Morning Herald, Jonathan Khoo worked with the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) as a contractor. The agency conducts scientific and tech research for the government. CSIRO had accused Khoo of installing code on two of its supercomputers and running a crypto mining operation for months.

When Khoo’s mining outfit was discovered in 2018, CSIRO fired him immediately. The agency also charged him with unauthorized modification of data to cause impairment — a crime with a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison.

Khoo managed to mine AU $ 9,420 ($6,864) worth of cryptocurrencies throughout his operation, which he deposited in Ether and Monero wallets. The agency added that his actions diverted much-needed computing power from its operations, costing AU $ 76,668 (about $55,900).

Australian authorities corroborated the agency’s accusations, pointing out that Khoo had taken valuable state resources and diverted them to personal use. Authorities specifically pointed out that the resources were being used for research into medicine, pulsar data array analysis, and climate change.

While he didn’t get any jail time? According to the reports, Khoo was ordered to complete 300 hours of community service. It’s unclear if he had to forfeit his profits.

Baykov and His Fellow Miners

As far as diverting government technical resources for personal crypto mining goes, Khoo is most likely a first in Australia. Most of these cases tend to originate from Eastern Europe, where there’s an abundance of energy resources and a sprawling collection of abandoned government facilities to be exploited.

Last year, reports confirmed that the Russian government had fined Denis Baykov, a local citizen who worked at a government-owned nuclear warhead facility and used its computers to mine Bitcoin.

Per a report, Baykov and two other employees were caught at the All-Russian Scientific Research Institute of Experimental Physics in Sarov. The facility dates back to the Soviet era, and it is reported to have been the development site for the Soviet Union’s first atomic warhead.

The facility is usually closed to tourists and non-residents. As for residents, anyone going there will need a special permit. A strict round-the-clock guard watches it, and it’s also hidden behind a concrete wall. Baykov and his co-conspirators were hired to help maintain the facility, so they had relatively unrestricted access.

Abusing this access, they installed crypto mining software on the facility’s supercomputer, which was reportedly powered by a system running on one petaflop — about 1,00 trillion processes per second.

They were eventually apprehended and accused of violating their employee rights. Authorities also claimed that their use of the supercomputer threatened the facility’s security. Baykov eventually got a $7,000 fine and escaped prison. One of his co-conspirators, Andrey Rybnik, got a three-year jail sentence and a fine of 200,000 rubles ($3,130), per a report from RT.

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