Russian nuclear scientists arrested for using a supercomputer in ‘bitcoin mining plot’

Two engineers at a top-secret nuclear lab in Russia were caught using equipment to engage in cryptocurrency mining, officials said.

The arrested scientists worked at the secret factory which made the USSR’s first nuclear bomb.

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 supercomputer was not supposed to be connected to the internet – to prevent intrusion – and once the scientists attempted to do so, the nuclear center’s security department was alerted.

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.

Crypto-currencies like Bitcoin do not rely on centralized computer servers. People who provide computer processing power to the cryptocurrency system, to enable transactions to take place, can get rewards in Bitcoins.

Russia is becoming a hotbed of cryptocurrency mining because of its low-cost energy reserves, according to Bloomberg.

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 top-secret town was not even marked on Soviet maps and special permits are still required for Russians to visit it.

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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