Ukraine’s Security Service (SBU) busted a cryptocurrency mining farm filled with racks of PS4 Pros for allegedly stealing electricity off the nation’s power grid, the spy agency reported late last week.
UPDATE, July 18: Turns out the warehouse was probably being used to farm FIFA accounts, not mine crypto. Original story follows.
The SBU says it discovered more than 5,000 devices, including racks and racks of PS4 Pros and other gaming-related tech, in a warehouse next door to the Vinnytsiaoblenergo energy distribution company in the city of Vinnytsia. The agency has accused the operation of leeching as much as $256,648 worth of energy from the surrounding grid using special electrical meters to hide the theft. It also hasn’t ruled out involvement by officials at the power company located right next to the warehouse. Some countries like Iran have banned crypto mining altogether due to energy blackouts.
For its part, Vinnytsiaoblenergo denies any involvement.
“The equipment used for cryptocurrency mining has never operated on premises owned by our enterprise,” it said in a July 9 statement, according to the Kyiv Post.
The power company also disputes that any electricity was stolen, telling the Kyiv Post that the SBU’s information “does not correspond to reality.” “We will not make excuses,” it said. “Let the SBU figure out what has happened.”
As our sister-site Gizmodo has reported time and again, you can use just about any gadget with a pulse to try and mine cryptocurrency, the shorthand for renting out computing capacity to help do all of the processing needed for blockchain technology to work. Have a Commodore 64? You can mine crypto with it. Still infected with the Norton Antivirus app? That can mine crypto too. Except don’t, because blockchain technology, at least in its current form, is contributing to the destruction of the planet.
And while I’m no expert, mining crypto with thousands of PS4 Pros can’t come cheap. The SBU claims it seized 3,800 game consoles. If we assume all of them were Pros, which currently still sell new for around $400, that’s an over $1.5 million investment. Of course, those consoles are now the property of the SBU, an anti-terrorism intelligence agency with lots of critics.
“The SBU often abuses its power and seizes valuable equipment worth thousands of dollars without legal justification, said Nataliya Drik, CEO of organization Blockchain Ukraine,” reports the Kyiv Post. “The country doesn’t have a state register of data centers used for crypto mining, thus many specialists work in shadow or move abroad to avoid raids.”
In recent years the SBU has also been criticized for human rights abuses, including allegedly holding people in secret detention facilities and trampling free speech rights, though what spy agency isn’t.