Russian police arrested several nuclear scientists caught trying to use the Russian Federal Nuclear Centre’s supercomputer for unauthorized purposes. Namely, for the purpose of mining bitcoin.

The center served as the site of the first atomic bomb developed by the Soviet Union, and now houses a powerful supercomputer dedicated to nuclear research. However, scientists attempted to make use of the vast computing resources available in order to mine digital currency.

Digital currency mining is a popular trend where a computer’s resources are used in order to verify transactions. The process works through an automated race to solve complex mathematical equations. The more powerful the device, the quicker the device can solve the equations and receive the transaction fee. This led to the emergence of mining pools and similar techniques that aim maximize profit through dedicating more resources to the mining process.

At the Nuclear Centre, the scientists allegedly used a supercomputer, which is far more powerful than average devices, to increase their profits. However, the supercomputer located in the Federal Nuclear Center remains disconnected from the internet for security purposes, so authorities were able to foil their attempt.

“There has been an unsanctioned attempt to use computer facilities for private purposes including so-called mining,” said the Federal Nuclear Centre press service to local media.

Beyond Russian illicit currency mining

Digital currency mining helps digital currencies stay decentralized since the process verifies transactions without the need for a central party. However, with the increasing price of digital currencies over the last few years, a correlating rise in illicit digital currency mining emerged.  

Beyond this instance with Russian scientists, other illicit digital currency mining attempts include the hijacking of YouTube advertisements in order to mine digital currencies without the consent of users through a process known as ‘cryptojacking.’

Positive uses for digital currency mining

Conversely, there are several ways in which people use digital currency mining for the betterment of society. Several charity projects emerged that aim to allow users to contribute to charity through donating their computer’s resources for a brief period of time.

Included in this is Game Chaingers, a new initiative from UNICEF that lets ordinary people support children in Syria fiscally without needing to donate their own money. Instead, users simply run the mining software from their computer for as long as they’d like to contribute.

Additionally, digital currency mining projects like Coinhive attempt to provide websites with a way to supplement the income that would otherwise be earned through advertisements. However, websites running Coinhive without the permission of users damaged the tool’s reputation. Now, some virus protection software applications block Coinhive altogether.

While digital currency has many positive applications, some have chosen to use it in a negative way. Unfortunately, as with any resource, it appears that the increased value of digital currencies led to an increase in the number of people trying to profit through illicit methods.

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