Russian scientists busted for mining with government’s supercomputer

Nuclear scientists at The Federal Nuclear Center in Russia used the facility's supercomputer to illicitly mine bitcoin. The “bungling miners” are now facing a criminal case after getting arrested by competent authorities.
Engineers at a top secret nuclear facility in Russia have been arrested for using one of the government’s most powerful computers to mine bitcoin. The supercomputer was not to be connected to the internet. The security system was alerted once an internet connection was established, and suspected scientists were arrested.

Bitcoin is the largest cryptocurrency by market capitalization. Despite witnessing a major decline this year, the coin is still attracting investors everywhere.  Digital currencies like bitcoin do not rely on centralized entities to be created, or minted. Miners provide computing power to the currency’s network to confirm transactions. Miners, in return, are rewarded with bitcoins.

Media reports reveal that this recent mining attempt took place in Sarov, a restricted area in Russia, at The Federal Nuclear Center. Exact number and identities of the arrested suspects have not been disclosed. Russia's Federal Security Service (FSB) is now handling the case.

The revelation came from Tatiana Zalesskaya, a spokeswoman of the nuclear center. She said that the “bungling miners” are now facing a criminal case after getting arrested by competent authorities. The suspects were arrested on grounds of using the “computing facilities for personal ends.”  She further added that the center will not be tolerating any similar activities in future.

When it started operating in 2011, the nuclear center's supercomputer was the twelfth most powerful in the world. It has a capacity of 1 petaflop, which is equivalent to 1000 trillion calculations per second. Such massive computing power renders it ideal for cryptocurrency mining, as the task requires huge amounts of processing power.

This attempt at illicit cryptocurrency mining is obviously not the first of its kind. Zalesskaya has revealed that a number of prominent companies experienced attempts to harness their enormous computing power for mining cryptocurrencies. In addition to Russia, Ukraine also recently arrested suspects on accusations of using government facilities' computers to mine bitcoins.

The center has been conducting research on nuclear weapons since 1946. The restricted area of Sarov used to be a top secret city in the Nizhny Novgorod region near Moscow. It is where the Soviet Union’s first nuclear weapons were created. The city is bounded by barbed wires even today, and Russians need special permits to visit it.
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