Tech 7 May 2018

Erik Gibbs

Angry crypto miners prompt US power company to increase security

Cryptocurrency miners in Washington State have electricity suppliers feeling a little jolted. After recently placing a moratorium on mining activities in the state due to heavy loads, several public utility companies have been forced to increase their security out of fears of attacks. One entity, the Chelan County Public Utility District (CCPUD), reported that its employees on the phones and in the field have been physically threatened by the unhappy miners.

The CCPUD launched a moratorium against cryptocurrency mining after it determined that the electric grid was being overwhelmed by the activity. The following month, county commissioners authorized the operator to go after miners that continue to infringe on the system. The CCPUD was given permission to immediately disconnect any account that is found to be in violation of the moratorium and fines of up to $11,400 can be levied. For an in-home mining operation, the maximum fine is $6,150; for a commercial one, that limit is raised to $11,400. Plans are in the works to charge moratorium violators with theft of power, pending legal reviews.

When the CCPUD executed the moratorium there were 22 miners already approved to conduct operations, with 19 more awaiting county approval. At least 28 unauthorized operations were identified, leading to the disconnection of 19 of those. However, each week, another three unauthorized operations are established in Chelan County.

The suppression of the mining operations hasn’t gone over well with the miners. According to a statement by the CCPUD, “[CCPUD] employees in the field and those in the office who are handling issues related to high-density load service have encountered an increasing number of upset customers and potential customers. In some cases, people can get agitated and argumentative. Our goal always is to provide excellent customer service, as well as to keep customers, the public and employees safe, especially when emotions may be running high.”

The company has been forced to introduce a number of new security procedures, including a $20,000 secure lobby for new services, ballistic panels and cameras in its headquarters, increased uniformed security personnel and enhanced personnel training to identify body language that could indicate a dangerous individual. While the CCPUD reports that their measures aren’t in response to a direct threat, it would be foolish to wait until after something happens before taking added measures of precaution.

Note: Tokens on the Bitcoin Core (SegWit) chain are referenced as BTC coins; tokens on the Bitcoin Cash ABC chain are referenced as BCH, BCH-ABC or BAB coins.

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