If you've been following the saga of crypto-currencies, and the trend in stories recently that allege their use by some unsavory groups as a source of funding, or their ability to be hacked, or the allegations of manipulation and mining by casinos, banks, and so on, then you'll want to read this one. In fact, I received an email from a few people speculating about people with access to super computers using them "on-0the-sly" to mine Bitcoin and so on, and one or two people connected this speculation to intelligence agencies and, yes, the ever-useful CERN to such speculations.
Well, Mr. P.K. spotted this article at RT and passed it along, and it seems to corroborate the basic thrust of these speculations: people with access to super-computers - nuclear engineers for example - are using that access to mine crypto-currencies:
In this case, the nuclear engineers in question were Russians working at the nuclear center in Sarov, and were apprehended and arrested after investigation by the Russian FSB(Federalnaya Sluzhba Byezhopaznosti, the re-named successor to the oft-renamed entity that has been by turns the CHEKA, the NKVD, the MGB, the KGB... you get the idea):
A powerful supercomputer located at a Russian nuclear research facility in Sarov was reportedly targeted by a pair of engineers who wanted to use it to mine cryptocurrencies.
“There has been an attempt of unsanctioned use of workplace computing capacities for personal gain, including for so-called mining,” the press service of the Sarov nuclear weapons facility told Interfax on Friday. The statement said the employees involved have been arrested and are facing criminal charges.The remarks, which didn’t provide further details about the case, came in response to reports on social media on Thursday saying the Russian Federal Security Service (FSB) had busted two nuclear engineers. The men had apparently attempted to set up an internet connection on the top secret supercomputer in Sarov to use it for mining cryptocurrencies.
The Sarov facility, which is usually called Federal Nuclear Center, is Russia’s counterpart to the Los Alamos National Laboratory. It’s a historic developer of nuclear weapons that is still very much involved in keeping Russia’s arsenal ready and up-to-date.
The short article concludes on a somewhat grimmer note, which suggests the possibility that the two scientists in question may have been part of a larger network:
Hijacking computing devices and using them into cryptocurrency mining operations at the owner’s expense is an increasingly-profitable criminal business. All sorts of devices, including house appliance microprocessors, can be hacked to do that. Another popular option is to insert malicious code into a web page and have the browsing users’ computers run it. However, all such schemes require an internet connection to link with other nodes of a cryptocurrency infrastructure.
In other words, one's own computer could be hacked and it could be used to mine crypto-currencies for someone else, running in the background. (Computer running slower than normal for no good reason? Hmmm....) Coming as it does in an article about the unauthorized mining of crypto-currencies by nuclear scientists working at what the article itself calls "Russia's counterpart to the Los Alamos National Laboratory" and "a historic developer of nuclear weapons that is still very much involved in keeping Russia's arsenal ready and up-to-date," these admissions (as one might imagine) drove my suspicion meter into the red zone, and my high octane speculation turbines into overdrive.
What the article suggests, in my high octane speculation of the day, is that one could, with enough thought, organization, and "seed money," organize a network to mine crypto-currencies for the express purpose of funding "secret research" for "non-territorial actors". Is your covert nuclear weapons project short of funds? Need a little extra cash for the next excursion into Kurdistan? If that sounds fanciful, think again, for I have already blogged on this website about a story that appeared that various neo-Fascist and neo-Nazi groups were mining crypto-currencies for precisely the purpose of funding their "operations". With a distributed ledger and encrypted access, its also the perfect way to transfer funds from point A to point B, and hence one can expect that such use would not confine itself to "non-territorial actors" but also be a "tool of tradecraft" for intelligence agencies. To put the idea country simple: it's the mediaeval crusading orders' modus operandi, 2.0.
Bearing these wild speculations in mind, the article seems to suggest the possibility that the "Sarov Crypto-Currency Incident" as we'll call it, might be not so much about two rogue scientists trying to make a fast ruble or two, as about the possibility that a wider network was involved, or at least, being set up, and that this constituted a national security issue to the Russian Federation.
But anyway one slices it, I suspect these are more reasons to regard the phenomenon with due caution and suspicion
See you on the flip side...