Russian nuclear scientists arrested in bitcoin mining plot

Russian officials said two workers at a nuclear research laboratory were arrested for using a facility supercomputer to try and mine bitcoins. Photo by Maxim Shipenkov/EPA-EFE

Feb. 10 (UPI) — Two engineers at a top-secret nuclear lab in Russia were caught using equipment to engage in cryptocurrency mining, officials said.

With help from a supercomputer at the Scientific Research Institute for Experimental Physics, the two employees obtained access to the offline machine and connected it to the Internet in a bid to start mining bitcoins, authorities said.

Shortly after the two employees connected the machine to the Internet, the supercomputer’s security system transmitted data to Russia’s Federal Security Service.

The employees, who were not immediately named, were conditionally released from custody.

The research institute said Friday that employees had attempted “unauthorized use of the institute’s equipment for personal needs, including so called mining.” The company did not specify when the incident happened.

The first Soviet nuclear weapon was produced in 1949 at the institute, which is in Sarov, a Russian city about 250 miles from Moscow. The research center has some of the country’s most powerful supercomputers that are isolated from the Internet for security reasons.

The case is not the first of its kind. The Russian government is drafting legislation to regulate operations using cryptocurrencies. In October, Russian President Vladimir Putin announced that the country would issue its own official cryptocurrency — the CryptoRuble.

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