In an update from the land down under, two employees of the Australian Bureau of Meteorology were investigated by local police after it was discovered that they were mining cryptocurrencies on their work computers. As per local media, the police interrogated these employees at the Bureau’s Dockland headquarters in Melbourne. This incident took place in late February but the police have refused to make any statements on the case, stating that ‘the investigation is still going on’.
An AFP spokesman confirmed a search warrant was issued for business premises in Docklands on 28 February. These employees of Australia’s weather services worked in the IT department - giving them easy access to the computers that are used for predicting the weather-related information.
Cryptocurrency mining is the process of generating new cryptocurrencies by solving complex mathematical algorithms. The process consumes a lot of electric power and needs powerful devices to run on - which is why the Bureau’s computers were the scene for the perfect crime! The Bureau of Meteorology has been using a CRAY XC-40 Supercomputer to predict weather-related data - and a machine of such immense power mining cryptocurrencies is what perhaps tempted the employees.
Weather departments need devices which can process intense calculations because predicting weather data requires a lot of mathematical calculations based on algorithms which only devices such as a supercomputer can process. The aforementioned Cray XC-40 runs on Linux, and can easily scale up to 50,000 processor cores - making it a very powerful device. Furthermore, the supercomputer comes with 2,160 compute nodes, with 51,840 Intel Xeon cores, 276TB of RAM, and a usable storage of 4.3PB.
Cryptocurrency mining is not illegal in Australia - but when it comes to mining for cryptocurrencies on work computers, especially a supercomputer used in the national interest for predicting weather data would pose questions of ethics, possibly leading to termination of these employees. Moreover, these operations may even pose a threat to the security of the supercomputer.
The Australian Bureau of Meteorology has been in the news in the past as well. In 2016, it was found out that the bureau’s systems had been hacked by foreign spies who had managed to steal an unknown quantity of documents from them. In February 2018, it was discovered that the Bureau’s official website was running ads promoting cryptocurrency scams! Following these incidents, this issue of cryptocurrency mining is likely to be dealt with rather strictly.
The global cryptocurrency wave has had quite an impact on all the nations - and Australia too is no different. The land down under has been hit by the cryptocurrency wave and millions in the continent-country are mining for cryptocurrencies. Australia’s stance towards cryptocurrencies has been quite liberal too, as Australian banks, unlike their American counterparts - are not banning cryptocurrency trade.