The Security Service of Ukraine (SBU), Ukraine’s top counterintelligence and law enforcement agency, has cracked down on an illegal cryptocurrency mining operation in the country.
The details of the bust were reported by Ukrainian English language news medium UNIAN earlier this week. According to the report, the SBU arrested operators in a nuclear power plant facility located at Yuzhnoukrainsk after finding that they had illegally set up a mining operation right within the facility.
The report revealed that the men had compromised the general security of the nuclear plant through the Internet connection of their setup, while they also ended up leaking confidential information on the physical protection system employed by the plant.
Detectives at the SBU reportedly got a search warrant and ran an investigation last month. In their search, they discovered unauthorized computer equipment (including six Radeon RX 470 GPU video cards and a motherboard) and a cooling unit, as well as a partial network cable and a fiber optic cable. All discovered items were seized and taken into custody.
The severity of their crimes was amplified by the fact that the power plant is registered as a state secret. Thus, due to its classified nature, no computer equipment is permitted there without being screened.
On the same day, a branch of the National Guard of Ukraine discovered that there was even more crypto mining equipment in the same location. In an organized search, National Guard officials reportedly discovered seven hard drives, 17 GPU video cards, a router, and two solid-state drives.
The work of miners has continued to receive much attention since the cryptocurrency market became mainstream. While many have continued to harp on the fact that the activity isn’t so environmentally sustainable, the health and energy concerns have not been able to stop mining from becoming more adopted. With Bitcoin trading at proper prices, many are looking at other ways to get the asset than just going to cryptocurrency exchanges and buying them outright.
This is where mining comes into play. The profitability of Bitcoin mining is rather high, and if engineers are able to piggyback off the power that they get from energy and nuclear power plant facilities, they could pretty much hit the jackpot.
Sadly, however, it isn’t always as easy.
Earlier this year, several engineers at the Russian Federal Nuclear Center were thrown behind bars after they were caught attempting to mine Bitcoin with one of the largest supercomputers in the country.
According to several reports, the supercomputer runs on one petaflop; essentially, it can perform about 1,000 trillion calculations in a second. Thus, in order to ensure security, it is mandatorily kept off the Internet. It would seem that the engineers were unaware of this, and as soon as they connected the computer to the Internet to use its compute power for mining security personnel apprehended them.
At the time, Tatiana Zalesskaya, the Head of the Press Service at the research institute, said, “There has been an unsanctioned attempt to use computer facilities for private purposes including, so-called mining. It is a technically hopeless and criminally punishable activity.”