Bitcoin Goes Nuclear In Top Secret Russian City

The headline may sound like the plot for the next James Bond film but in truth, it’s more likely to end up as a tragic comedy starring Seth Rogen and James Franco. News broke during the first week of February that several entrepreneurial engineers at Russia’s top nuclear research facility had been ‘detained’ after they were caught using the supercomputer that runs the nuclear center to mine for Bitcoin.

Bitcoin (BTC) has fallen below $8,000 at the time of this article according to TipRanks Crypto Center.

Tatiana Zalesskaya, a spokeswoman for the center, told the Interfax news agency that “an attempt to use the work computing facilities for personal ends, including for so-called mining” was detected and “Their activities were stopped in time.”

Adding insult to injury, the spokeswoman said that “The bungling miners have been detained by the competent authorities. As far as I know, a criminal case has been opened regarding them.” As of now, details have not been released on how many crooks were in on the crypto-caper.

The failed miners’ futures don’t look like fun. The Russian authorities aren’t fond of looking foolish. And, in an attempt to dissuade any other employees with not-so-bright ideas, Tatiana Zalesskaya added that similar attempts “at our enterprises will be harshly put down, this activity technically has no future and is punishable as a crime.”

The Bitcoin miners got busted when they mistakenly thought no one would notice that they hooked up the supercomputer to the internet to start mining. Once the Air Gap was broken, the security department was alerted, and the jig was up.

Most critical infrastructure facilities, especially nuclear ones, use Air Gaps to protect them from an external attack by hackers. Air Gap is a term for the very low-tech concept of protecting a sensitive system by keeping what amounts to a ‘moat of air’ around it. Without a bridge or connection to external networks, intruders have no way to penetrate the defenses.

Bitcoins, as well as other cryptocurrencies, are ‘mined’ or created by winning a computational race to solve a mathematical equation. The ever-increasing complexity of the equations requires tools that are equal to the task. Back in 2011 when the supercomputer in question was first switched on, it made headlines for being the twelfth most powerful in the world, boasting 1 petaflop of processing power.

The scene of the crime in question is a top-secret city located in Western Russia called Savrov. The city happens to be home to the Federal Nuclear Center. With a long and storied past placing it at the heart of Russia’s nuclear operations, all residents and employees are subjected to tightly controlled and monitored travel.

Savrov also happens to be the birthplace of the Soviet Union’s first nuclear weapons program. It’s located about 500km (300 miles) east of Moscow and even had its own top-secret code name back in the days of the Soviet Empire, going by the moniker Arzamas-16. No outsiders are permitted to enter the city without first receiving authorization from the Russian government unless of course, you parachute in wearing a tuxedo and sipping a martini that’s been shaken and not stirred.

The views and opinions expressed herein are the views and opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Nasdaq, Inc.

The views and opinions expressed herein are the views and opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Nasdaq, Inc.

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