back to article Contractor convicted of pinching supercomputer cycles to mine cryptocurrency

An IT contractor has been found guilty of pinching his employer’s supercomputer to mine cryptocurrency. The un-named man was employed at Australia’s Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO), an outfit that made critical contributions to WiFi and operates the Parkes Radio Telescope that received the …

  1. Mike 137 Silver badge

    Economics 101

    "he scored approximately AU$9,400 (US$6,800) of bitbucks but burned through AU$76,000 ($55,000) of compute time"

    Which is why fraud is the only economic way to create cryptobucks now - the equivalent of "slush" printing. This doesn't bode well for the long term viability of these "currencies". At least the greenback can generally be assumed to be legitimate.

    1. deive

      Re: Economics 101


      Although, what is the likelyhood of that AU$76,000 being lost revenue, not being able to charge someone else, rather than actual cost of running the machine for whatever length of time?

      1. Version 1.0 Silver badge

        Re: Economics 101

        This happens all the time, it's never a crime for the police to lie (or simply have no real clue) about the value for the "crime" - they just declare a value but nobody ever investigates it.

        A super computer generated less than half a Btc, what was it doing, did he modify the screensaver?

        1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

          Re: Economics 101

          You don't think it possible that they asked CSIRO?

      2. Pascal Monett Silver badge

        Well it is a supercomputer. Generally those things have quite a bit more CPUs than the one you find in a desktop. Some have tens of thousands of the things, with the assorted RAM and storage arranged in a specific way.

        That's going to gobble quite a bit of electricity, methinks.

    2. Peter Gathercole Silver badge

      Re: Economics 101

      When I was involved with the support of the UK Met. Office's IBM Power 775 systems, and their eventual decommissioning about 5 years ago, there were several weeks where the systems had to be kept operational and fully functional as a backup for their replacement, but no forecasting jobs were being scheduled on the systems.

      The system manager gave me carte blanche to run any jobs I wanted.

      Unfortunately, being on the support rather than the application side, I did not have anything more than jobs to test various parts of the scheduler, but in theory I could have had significant time on two top 200 (they were still very powerful) and two smaller supercomputers to mine cryptocurrency.

      The decommissioning was a wonder to behold. Apart from some initial preparation work scrubbing the volume data storage, all 4 supercomputers were still in an operational state at 08:00 on the Monday, and completely removed from the machine halls and in trucks by about 19:00 on the Thursday evening, with a day's contingency. All that was left was the cooling water pipework and power sockets.

      And the decommissioning crew consisted of an IBM Fellow and more Distinguished Engineers than you could shake a stick at plus some field engineers, in total more than half of the engineering team for these systems from the US.

      I think they had an incentive to complete the job early, as their flights back to the US were not until the weekend, and they ended up with an extra day doing the tourist thing!

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Economics 101

        "the tourist thing" being the enjoyment of ample decent beer?


        1. Peter Gathercole Silver badge

          Re: Economics 101

          Really don't know. When the systems went out of the loading bay, my role and interaction with that team came to an end, and I never got to talk to them again.

          Bit of a shame, they were really decent people to know, and literally the cream of IBM hardware talent with more than a century of design experience between them,

          As a result, they've probably been RA'd by now!

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Economics 101

            just thinking the same!

      2. macjules

        Re: Economics 101

        There is a lovely urban myth about Margaret Thatcher and The Met Office, regarding their asking for funding for a new super computer. She told them that if they could accurately predict the weather for 30 days then she would consider their request. For the next 30 days the weather forecasts were very much spot on, resulting in Mrs T saying that since they could now forecast the weather correctly then why did they need a new computer?

    3. Roland6 Silver badge

      Re: Economics 101

      It's a super computer being run on a bureau/cloud compute basis...

      System idle time has zero cost until someone actually wants to use it at which point it has a price. So the AU$76,000 is what they would have billed a paying customer for the compute time used.

      So moral of the story, if you want to make money mining cryptobucks, don't pay for compute time on someone else's machine.

      1. Jc (the real one)

        Re: Economics 101

        Don't forget the electricity cost isn't $0

        Of course, with the right management software, idle machines would power down and consume minimal electricity $ until there was work to be done


        1. Roland6 Silver badge

          Re: Economics 101

          >Don't forget the electricity cost isn't $0

          I had thought of that, however, given the organisation: Australia’s Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation, I suspect they get fully funded to run the supercomputer 24x7 - or someone is p*ss poor at writing funding bids....

  2. Stratman

    "he scored approximately AU$9,400 (US$6,800) of bitbucks but burned through AU$76,000 ($55,000) of compute time"

    It's like filing the corners off a 50 pence piece to make a 10 pence coin.

    1. renke

      The metaphor breaks horribly, but what the guy did was more like "filing the corners off your 50 pence piece to make him a 10 pence coin".

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    "2020 is probably a good year to be under such an Order: it’s not vastly more restrictive than current coronavirus restrictions in parts of Australia"


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