Sydney man sentenced for unlawful cryptocurrency mining using CSIRO supercomputers

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A 34-year-old man from Sydney’s North Shore has been sentenced for using the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation’s (CSIRO) servers and supercomputers to carry out cryptocurrency mining.

The Australian Federal Police (AFP) Cybercrime Operations launched an investigation after CSIRO detected a serious impairment of its infrastructure and immediately reported it to the AFP.

The man was hired as a contractor in January 2018 and had access to those servers and systems to perform his employed role in data archiving and software support. He accessed servers and supercomputers meant for undertaking a range of official scientific research and modified data within those systems – without authorisation – to mine cryptocurrency for his personal gain. It is estimated the man mined approximately $9,400 in cryptocurrency.

The AFP executed a search warrant at the man’s Killara, NSW property in March 2018 where electronic items, including a laptop and mobile phone, were seized.

Investigators interviewed and charged the man with offences relating to impairment of Commonwealth servers and systems.

Throughout the investigation it was calculated the minimum monetary impairment of the CSIRO supercomputers equated to at least $76,000.

Further details into the initial arrest are located in the original media release – Government employee charged with using government IT systems to mine for cryptocurrenc

The 34-year-old pleaded guilty on 28 February 2020 before the Downing Centre Local Court to the charge of unauthorised modification of data to cause impairment, contrary to section 477.2 of the Criminal Code Act 1995 (Cth).

Yesterday (Friday, 18 September 2020), the man was sentenced to 15 months’ imprisonment to be served by way of an Intensive Community Order which includes 300 hours of community service.

AFP Commander Cybercrime Operations Chris Goldsmid said this investigation uncovered a serious misuse of taxpayer funded resources.

“The AFP commends the prompt actions of CSIRO in identifying this criminal conduct and swiftly reporting it for investigation,” Cmdr. Goldsmid said.

“This man’s activities diverted these supercomputer resources away from performing significant scientific research for the nation, including Pulsar Data Array Analysis, medical research and climate modelling work to measure impacts to the environment from climate change.

“The consequences are clear – this was a misuse of Australian taxpayers’ trust by a Commonwealth employee, motivated by personal gain and greed.”

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