It looks like Russian President Vladimir Putin needs to pay his nuclear scientists more.
As the BBC reported Friday, the Russian security officers have arrested several scientists working at a top-secret Russian nuclear facility for allegedly mining crypto-currencies. The suspects had tried to use one of Russia’s most powerful supercomputers to mine Bitcoin.
“There has been an unsanctioned attempt to use computer facilities for private purposes including so-called mining,” the Federal Nuclear Center in Sarov, western Russia, said.
The Federal Nuclear Center in Sarov, western Russia, is a restricted area.
The supercomputer was not authorized to be connected to the internet to prevent possible intrusions – and once scientists tried to make the connection, the site’s security alerted authorities and the two were quickly apprehended.
Interfax reported that, while they couldn’t confirm whether a criminal case had been launched, it appears it has.
“As far as we are aware, a criminal case has been launched against them,” the press service told Interfax news agency.
In the Cold War the USSR’s first nuclear bomb was produced at Sarov before the death of Josef Stalin.
The case is similar to the discovery that a still unknown perpetrator installed clandestine software to mine Monero using the server’s energy – effectively generating free cryptocurrency for the person who planned the scheme.
The top-secret town was not even marked on Soviet maps and special permits are still required for Russians to visit it.
Sarov is surrounded by a tightly guarded no-man’s-land, with barbed wire fences to keep the curious away.
There are suspicions that the radioactive polonium-210 used to kill ex-FSB agent Alexander Litvinenko in London in 2006 came from Sarov.
The Federal Nuclear Centre reportedly employs up to 20,000 people and its supercomputer boasts a capacity of 1 petaflop, the equivalent of 1,000 trillion calculations per second.
Mining crypto-currencies requires great computational power and huge amounts of energy.
There have been reports of some other industrial facilities in Russia being used for crypto-mining, and one businessman reportedly bought two power stations for the activity.
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