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BoM workers with Australia’s most powerful supercomputer mine bitcoin on desktop instead

Posted: 8 March 2018 1:26 pm
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The BoM has Australia's most powerful supercomputer, but they mined bitcoin on desktop computers.

Australia's Bureau of Meteorology (BoM) has a $77 million Cray XC-40 supercomputer named Australis. That bad boy houses 51,840 Intel Xeon cores, 276 terabytes of RAM and has usable storage space of 4.3 petabytes, operating at a peak capacity of 1.6 petaflops, with an upgrade scheduled to bring it up to 5 petaflops. It's designed to almost instantaneously calculate a detailed weather forecast of any 6 square kilometres in Australia and deliver it straight to anyone's smartphone.

It is the most powerful supercomputer in all of Australia, and rough calculations show that someone who uses it to mine bitcoin could probably do alright.

Two Melbourne BoM IT workers are now under investigation for not doing exactly that, with the AFR reporting that the employees opted to mine bitcoin on desktop computers instead of going the full Cray.

One of the involved employees has since gone on leave, thereby literally going home instead of going big.

As the ABC reports:

"Federal police officers executed a search warrant at the bureau's Collins Street headquarters in Melbourne on Wednesday last week (February 28). The officers spoke to two IT employees, according to people with knowledge of the raid.

The rest of the bureau's IT team was ushered into a conference room and told to wait while the employees were questioned, the people said.

At least one of the employees who was questioned by the AFP has since gone on leave. No charges have been laid but the investigation is continuing."

The ABC is probably the best outlet to break the news, with one of its employees having previously done the same thing.


The incident harks back to a similar situation several weeks ago, when several much braver Russian scientists were arrested for mining bitcoin on their top secret facility's super computer.

"One possibility is that they're trying to use some of the equipment that the Bureau of Meteorology have. The Bureau of Meteorology has some very fast computers. Another possibility, though, is that they're just trying to get the Bureau of Meteorology to pay for the electricity. Mining is a very electricity-intensive task and they probably didn't want to pay for it themselves," said RMIT's Chris Berg, of the much less ambitious Australian suspects.

WA Today described the BoM mining scheme as "elaborate," but until more details emerge it's not possible to say what was so elaborate about it.

How does bitcoin mining work?


Disclosure: At the time of writing the author holds ETH, IOTA, ICX, VEN, XLM, SALT, BTC, XRB

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