It can be quite lucrative to mine for cryptocurrency these days, as the value of these digital currencies has soared. It may be a good idea, but clearly not at work. That is a lesson that an Australian government employee learned as he appeared in court on Tuesday for charges related to using government computers and equipment to mine for currency while he was on the job.
According to the Australian Federal Police (AFP), the 33-year-old man allegedly altered government computer systems which enabled him to be able to mine for digital currencies. This reportedly enabled him to earn over AU$9,000 ($6,191).
The civil servant is facing two charges: unauthorized modification of restricted data as well as a charge of unauthorized modification of data to cause impairment. While these may not seem like serious charges on the surface, they do carry a maximum penalty of 10 years imprisonment.
“Australian taxpayers put their trust in public officials to perform vital roles for our community with the utmost integrity,” said Acting Commander Chris Goldsmid. “Any alleged criminal conduct which betrays this trust for personal gain will be investigated and prosecute.”
The name of the accused has not been released yet, but prior to his court appearance, AFP officers conducted a thorough search of the man’s home in Sydney. As part of the search, they seized his personal laptop, phone, his employee ID cards, as well as data files.
This is not the first time that such an incident has occurred. In March 2018, it was reported that two Bureau of Meteorology (BOM) staff members were also using government equipment to mine for cryptocurrency.
This kind of illegal activity may seem banal, but it can be quite taxing on government resources. It takes a large amount of electricity to continually mine for digital currencies, and that can be costly. Taxpayers wind up on the hook for these kinds of activities, which Chinese authorities discovered recently when $15,000 worth of electricity was used by a local railway operator to mine for Bitcoin Core (BTC).
Australia has faced a growing presence of illegal activity related to cryptocurrency. In April, Australian officials warned its citizens against a Facebook scam that used two well-known TV personalities to try to entice people to invest in a crypto scam.
Weeks later, the countries Competition and Consumer Commission provided information that there were 674 reported scams involving cryptocurrencies in 2018. This resulted in a loss of AUD6.1 million, a 190% increase over losses from 2017 related to these kinds of scams.
The problem is that these kinds of activities are not going away. With thousands of dollars at stake for mining even one coin, it would not be surprising to see these kinds of cases increase.
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