Russian Pair Arrested for Mining Crypto on State Computers

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Two Russian nationals have been arrested for allegedly infecting two state-controlled computers and mining cryptocurrency with them, according to the Russian news agency, Taas. The arrests highlight a pattern that has emerged in 2019 where hackers have targeted enterprise-level infrastructure due to their larger computing resources, with state-controlled networks usually being the least well protected due to budget restraints.

Country-wide Botnet Used

The arrests were detailed in a press conference held Monday, where Deputy Director of the National Coordination Center for Computer Incidents, Nikolay Murashov, detailed the methods used by the pair, although it is not known if they worked together. The first, a resident of Kurgan in Russia’s south, was alleged to have developed a botnet that stretched the length of the country, while the second was arrested for infecting computers at the state-controlled water facility, JSC Rostovvodokanal, headquartered near to the border with Ukraine.

Details of the crime, such as the coins the pair were attempting to mine and how much they earned, were kept from the public, although Murashov did reveal that it took the form of cryptojacking, which is the insertion of mining scripts into browser software. He also revealed just how easy it is for individuals such as the arrested pair to mine cryptocurrencies illegally, claiming that some 80% of free computer power can be utilized to mine virtual coins without the knowledge of the user.

Not Russia’s First Rodeo

Russia is no stranger to illegal crypto mining using state facilities, most famously last February when security workers at a nuclear warhead facility were found to have attempted to use the supercomputers housed there to mine Bitcoin. As a result of the arrests, Murashov called on organizations to pay more attention to the security of their networks, noting that the use of industrial servers for mining could result in a significant performance reduction and congruent damage to business.