A group of six suspects has been arrested in Klingenthal, Germany, in connection with a cryptocurrency mining farm that has been operating on stolen electricity. News of the arrests came yesterday in the Freie Presse.
Police discovered a mining operation consisting of at least 49 computers located at PGH Elektro, a former electrical services company. 30 of these computers were equipped with specialized mining hardware, including 80 GPUs (graphics processing units.) GPUs are widely used in the cryptocurrency mining industry.
The operation is thought to have begun running in 2017 and is estimated to have used the equivalent of 30 households’ worth of electricity, worth roughly 220,000 euros (or $250,053.) Depending on the cryptocurrency being mined, cryptocurrency mining can require extremely large amounts of energy. The kinds of cryptocurrency being mined at the facility were not disclosed.
Electricity Theft is Somewhat Common in the Crypto Mining Industry
Although not many details are known about this story, the case is hardly unique. The cryptocurrency mining industry is, unfortunately, rife with incidences of theft–either physical or digital.
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For example–in May of 2018, employees of the Ukrainian national police headquarters in Rivne were found to have been stealing electricity to mine cryptocurrency from their offices for four months.
Similarly, Chinese citizen Xu Xinghua was sentenced in October to 35 years in prison after authorities discovered that he had been stealing electricity from a local railway station to fuel his own cryptocurrency mining operation. China is estimated to have some of the lowest electricity costs in the world for crypto miners.
Then, in December, a Taiwanese man was arrested in connection with $3 million worth of stolen electricity used to mine cryptocurrency. According to CoinTelegraph, the man “hired electricians to rewire the premises in such a way as to evade electricity metering,” and avoid unwanted attention.
These are just several cases that are known–there are many more cryptocurrency miners in the world running on stolen electricity.
Some mining-related energy theft crimes are far more insidious, however. “Cryptojacking” software allows malicious individuals to build web pages that usurp their visitors’ CPU without their consent. Unsuspecting users will suddenly experience reduced performance on their computers as they are used to mine cryptocurrencies (most commonly Monero) without knowing it.