Russian scientists caught using nuclear facility supercomputer to mine Bitcoin

Another day, another incident involving people mining Bitcoin cryptocurrency illegally – This time, it is none other than Russian scientists.

The Interfax News Agency, Russia, reported that engineers from the All-Russian Research Institute of Experimental Physics (RFNC-VNIIEF) have been arrested for using official “computing resources” to mine Bitcoin cryptocurrency. It must be noted that the RFNC-VNIIEF is a federal nuclear facility in Russia and it is the same institute where the first nuclear bomb in the Soviet Union was developed.

The RFNC-VNIIEF’s head of press service and Institute’s official spokesperson Tatyana Zalesskaya stated that there was an “unsanctioned attempt” to make use of office computer facilities for “private purposes including so-called mining.”

“Their activities were stopped in time. The bungling miners have been detained by the competent authorities. As far as I know, a criminal case has been opened regarding them,” Zalesskaya added.

As of now neither Russia’s Federal Security Service (FSB) nor the Institute has revealed the number of engineers detained or the criminal charges implied on the arrested individuals. However, according to reports, they were trying to connect the supercomputer at RFNC-VNIIEF lab to the internet for cryptocurrency mining.

The Sarov based RFNC-VNIIEF is a secretive facility, which is not even mentioned in Soviet maps and Russian military guards it 24/7. The nature of work at this facility is such that no computer installed at the institute can be connected to the internet, not even the 1-petaflop capable supercomputer that can easily perform a quadrillion operations within a second. Since somebody tried to connect it to the internet, therefore the FSB quickly identified this activity and an investigation was launched.

Russian scientists caught using Nuclear facility Supercomputer to mine Bitcoin

According to Zalesskaya, companies having extensive computing capacity have been trying to harness their resources for mining cryptocurrency but such schemes will be severely “suppressed at our enterprises [because] this is technically a hopeless and criminal offense.”

BBC reports that the top-secret nuclear facility in Russia has around 20,000 employees and it houses the strongest supercomputers in the entire country. One thing that instantly hits us is that Russia is tightening its grip on crypto-miners and those involved in mining.

Not for the first time

This is not the first time that computers at a high-profile Russian government institution were caught in the middle of mining cryptocurrency. In December 2017, Transneft, a state-owned largest oil pipeline company in the world had its computers used to mine Monero cryptocurrency however the company claimed it was a cyber attack rather than an inside job.

Image credit: DepositPhotos

Waqas

Waqas Amir is a Milan-based cybersecurity journalist with a passion for covering latest happenings in cyber security and tech world. In addition to being the founder of this website, Waqas is also into gaming, reading and investigative journalism.