Russian Nuclear Scientists Got Busted Mining Bitcoin Using Their Work Supercomputers

Putin's about to bring the hammer down.

2. 12. 18 by Kristin Houser
Wikimedia Commons
Image by Wikimedia Commons

Russian Roulette

The average crappy employee leaves work early, online shops on company time, and gossips about their coworkers. A really, really bad employee attempts to hack the supercomputer at the top-secret Russian nuclear warhead facility where they work in order to mine cryptocurrency.

That’s the sort of thing you just know is going to come up in your next performance review.

In early February several engineers at the All-Russian Research Institute of Experimental Physics (RFNC-VNIIEF) in Sarov lost their jobs, and likely their future freedom, when they attempted to connect the institute’s supercomputer to the internet. This triggered a security alert that led to their arrest.

Tatyana Zalesskaya, head of the research institute’s press service, told Interfax that the workers’ goal was to use the system for crypto mining. I guess the salary of a nuclear engineer just wasn’t cutting it for them.


Zalesskaya said the offending engineers will face criminal charges. Apparently, they aren’t the first to risk time in a Russian prison in exchange for some of their employer’s sweet processing power. According to Zalesskaya, other companies have caught employees trying to mine on their advanced computing systems.

On the Fence

Indeed, crypto mining is on the rise all over Russia, possibly to Vladimir Putin’s chagrin. Or possibly not.

The Russian president has had something of an on again/off again relationship with crypto. In June 2017, he met with Vitalik Buterin, the creator of Ethereum, one of world’s most popular cryptocurrencies. He seemed pretty high on crypto for a few months, but by early October 2017, he was publicly linking it to money laundering and terrorism. Then, in January 2018, he called for the creation of a national cryptocurrency.

No doubt the newly arrested RFNC-VNIIEF engineers are hoping Putin’s relationship with crypto is on one of its upswings when it’s time for their sentencing. If not, he may use their case to set an example of what happens to criminals who mess with crypto. We can’t imagine that will go well for them.


Disclosure: Several members of the Futurism team, including the editors of this piece, are personal investors in a number of cryptocurrency markets. Their personal investment perspectives have no impact on editorial content.

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