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Illegal crypto miners in Russia have stolen over $6.6 million in electricity

Mining cryptocurrencies is incredibly energy-intensive; in a recent investigation, state-owned firm Rossetti discovered that over $6.6M in electricity had been stolen over the past three years

Illegal cryptocurrency miners in Russia stole over 450 million Russian rubles (almost $6.6 million) from local energy providers over the past three years.

Rossetti, a state-owned power grid company, initially reported these figures in its official Telegram channel. According to the company, it has been actively looking for mining firms that do not have any contracts with local power generating firms and instead plug into nearby electric grids to steal electricity. 

The report explains that this usually happens on the premises of businesses that already exist, such as factories where owners are looking to earn additional income. Other illegal crypto mining locations that are being considered include garages, rented offices, houses in the woods and former farmland where the ASICs are placed.

Illegal crypto miners steal electricity by pulling electric cords that are connected to powerlines and then building their own power transformers to siphon off power. 

In one case discovered by the authorities, Rossetti found that the owner hid the entire station underground. It had been buried in the soil in a public forest.

A common practise is to also tamper with the power meters to make it seem as if the owners consumed less energy than a mining farm would actually need. In cases where Bitcoin mining is involved, the discrepancies would be more than a kilowatt per hour for just a single mining machine, multiplied by the thousands of machines in every farm.

Cases of stolen electricity to fund mining operations started popping up in 2017, when Rossetti found 35 cases of illegal power consumption across 20 regions of Russia. The company has confirmed that each of these cases have been reported to law enforcement officials.

To scale, Russia consists of 85 regions of various sizes and population density. 

Rossetti revealed that they pinpoint the illegal consumption of power by searching for anomalies, inspecting the powerlines and measuring the workload of each station. Sometimes, mining farms can also easily be found by visual signs, such as when a building untypically has air-condition devices and fans installed. 

In the past year, illegal crypto miners have carried out their operations in a nuclear research institute and through the website of a local utility provider. 

Rossetti is currently exploring ways the technology can augment their operations, looking into how a distributed ledger can gather data on power consumption more effectively. 

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