Final Russian Nuclear Researcher Receives Prison Sentence for Illegal Crypto Mining

A nuclear lab researcher in Russia will reportedly be serving three years in a prison colony for allegedly using government equipment to illegally mine Bitcoin (BTC).

Andrey Rybkin, a nuclear scientist working at the All-Russian Scientific Research Institute of Experimental Physics in Sarov, was the last of three other employees to receive a prison sentence from a local jurisdictional court. This, according to an October 25 report from Russian news outlet Meduza. 

Rybkin will also be required to pay a 200,000 ruble (appr. $3,100) fine in addition to serving time in prison.

The other two workers that have been convicted over the illegal mining incident have also been fined, and one employee has received a four-year sentence, the report confirmed.

Rybkin has been charged with misusing lab equipment as he infected it with viruses while also inappropriately accessing digital information that he was not authorized to view.

Known for assisting in the production of the former Soviet Union’s (USSR) first nuclear bomb, the Sarov lab houses Russia’s most advanced supercomputers. Rybkin and the two other lab scientists reportedly accessed the lab’s network and used a supercomputer to secretly mine Bitcoin in May 2017. Equipment damages to the facility have been estimated at more than 1 million rubles (appr. $15,600).

This is not the first incident involving illegal cryptocurrency mining. 

Ho Jun Jia (also known as Matthew Ho), a 29-year-old Singaporean resident, is facing up to 34 years in prison after he allegedly stole Amazon AWS and Google Cloud computing power and services to illegally mine digital currencies.

Ho was reportedly arrested by the Singapore police force on September 26 after receiving a 14-count indictment. Ho has been accused of stealing credit card and identity information from various people residing in California, Texas, and India, in order to conduct a large cryptocurrency mining operation.

The accused reportedly mined Bitcoin and Ether (ETH) between October 2017 and February 2018.

An unsealed indictment document stated:

“Beginning in late 2017, which followed the surge in popularity of cryptocurrencies, Ho used victims’ personal and stolen credit card information, along with phony email addresses, which he created, designed to spoof the authentic email account of identity-theft victims, to open accounts and to obtain access to cloud computing services.”

Ho racked up $5 million in unpaid cloud computing charges while running his illegal mining operation. The Department of Justice said that for a short period of time, Ho’s operation was among AWS’ largest data consumers.