The Australian Federal Police (AFP) are investigating two Bureau of Meteorology (BM) employees on suspicion they had been using the weather agency’s powerful computers to mine cryptocurrencies, ABC News reported.
AFP officers served the two IT workers with a search warrant at BM’s headquarters in Melbourne and questioned the suspects.
An AFP spokesman said:
“The AFP can confirm it executed a search warrant at a business premises in Docklands, Melbourne, on February 28, 2018, in relation to an ongoing investigation.”
The federal police added that one of the employees has since gone on leave. AFP officials are continuing their inquiry and have yet to file charges.
Chris Berg from RMIT's Blockchain Innovation Hub theorized that the employees might have been exploiting the powerful computational capability of BM’s computers or trying to avoid the substantial electricity costs associated with cryptocurrency mining.
Mining Bitcoin and other digital currencies is very expensive in Australia because of the high energy prices in the county. Data released by Elite Fixtures showed that one Bitcoin costs $9,913 to mine in Australia compared to just $531 per Bitcoin in Venezuela.
Thousands of government websites hacked to mine crypto
The BM case comes shortly after UK-based security researcher Scott Helme discovered that thousands of government websites in the UK, the US, and Australia had been infected with malware that forces the computers of visitors to mine cryptocurrency without their knowledge or consent.
Helme said that the malicious script originated from a website plug-in called BrowseAloud, which is used to aid people with dyslexia, impaired vision, or low literacy to access the internet. He explained that hackers inserted a program called Coinhive into BrowseAloud to secretly mine open-source digital currency Monero by using the computational power of the unsuspecting visitors’ computers.