Russian nuclear scientists arrested for using supercomputer to mine cryptocurrency

Technology / Russian nuclear scientists arrested for using supercomputer to mine cryptocurrency

Several nuclear scientists posted at a nuclear warhead facility in Russia were arrested after authorities discovered that they were trying to use a supercomputer at the facility to mine cryptocurrency.

The nuclear scientists were caught after they tried to connect a supercomputer to the Internet to use it for private purposes, including cryptocurrency mining.

The top-secret nuclear warhead facility in Sarov, known as the All-Union Scientific Research Institute of Experimental Physics, is so closely guarded that the town itself was declared closed after the centre was set up in 1946. The facility continues to be principally involved in the development, production, storage, and utilisation of nuclear weapons as well as the recycling of radioactive and other materials.

Recently, several nuclear scientists at the facility tried to connect a supercomputer, which is usually disconnected for security purposes, to the Internet to use it for private purposes. However, the security team at the facility discovered the attempt and apprehended the scientists before handing them over to the FSB.

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“Indeed, there was an unauthorised attempt to use office computing capacities for personal purposes, including for so-called mining. “Mountain-miners” were detained by competent authorities. As far as we know, a criminal case has been instituted against them,” a spokeswoman from the facility’s press service told Russia’s Interfax news agency.

The spokeswoman added that similar attempts to mine cryptocurrency were observed at several large companies that had large computing capacities and that such attempts wouldn’t succeed at the facility. According to Interfax, the nuclear warhead facility’s supercomputers boast a combined capacity of 1 petaflop. In comparison, ‘Hector’, the most powerful supercomputer in the UK, boasts a capacity of 0.8 petaflops.

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Considering that cryptocurrency mining requires a lot of computing power, those indulging in the activity would surely be lured by enterprises and installations that feature supercomputers or large IT systems. With the threat posed by cyber criminals to critical infrastructure firms like nuclear power stations or warhead facilities increasing by the day, governments will need to look out for this additional threat vector in the coming days.

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Jay has been a technology reporter for almost a decade. When not writing about cybersecurity, he writes about mobile technology for the likes of Indian Express, TechRadar India and Android Headlines


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