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 first images and video from Apollo 11 when it touched down on the moon. These days one of Parkes’ tasks is peering into Pulsars and the crooked contractor was given access to machines that crunched data from that experiment and also conducted other research.

Australia’s Federal Police said the contractor was hired to perform data archiving and software support, but also “modified data within those systems – without authorisation – to mine cryptocurrency for his personal gain.”

The force estimates he scored approximately AU$9,400 (US$6,800) of bitbucks but burned through AU$76,000 ($55,000) of compute time to mine them.

The man pled guilty in February and late last week was sentenced to 15 months’ imprisonment to be served by way of an Intensive Community Order – a non-custodial sentence that can include penalties such as home detention and curfews, and in this case includes 300 hours of community service.

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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