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Australian Penalized for Mining Crypto via Supercomputer

A contractor from an Australian government research agency has been sentenced for using supercomputers to mine cryptocurrency in the year 2018. He has evaded maximum penalties of 10 years jail time; the court, however, handed him 300 hours of community service.

A 34-year old from the north shore of Sydney, Australia, Jonathan Khoo was sentenced last Friday for using valuable computing resources at Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization to mine Ethereum and Monero, a secured form of cryptocurrency.

According to Australian Federal Police (AFP), Khoo’s January 2018 mining operation has returned an amount of approximately AUD 9,400 (USD 6,850), all the while costing the CSIRO at least AUD 76,000 (USD 55,400) from lost productivity and misconfiguration.

Chris Goldsmid, the AFP’s Commander of Cybercrime Operations, said in the release that Khoo “diverted these supercomputer resources away from performing significant scientific research for the nation, including Pulsar Data Array Analysis, medical research and climate modeling work to measure impacts to the environment from climate change.”

Having the charges of unauthorized modification of data causing impairment, Khoo pleaded guilty before the Downing Center Local Court last February 2020

The charges have carried a maximum sentence of up to 10 years in prison. However, Khoo’s relatively light sentence of 300 hours of community service is partially due to Khoo’s remorsefulness and cooperation with law enforcement following a search of his home in March 2018, according to reports.

“The consequences are clear – this was a misuse of Australian taxpayers’ trust by a Commonwealth employee, motivated by personal gain and greed,” stated Goldsmid.

Erin Kennedy, the Presiding Magistrate, has noted the significance of having a government research organization that was targeted by the rogue contractor; it implies more significant harm that could have occurred the public resources if Khoo or another actor have more malicious intentions.

Khoo’s mining activities have lasted for more than a month. Then, mining returns – amounting to less than AUD 10,000 (USD 7,000) in total – hardly seems worth the penalties. Taking into account his 300 hours of community service, on the other hand, Khoo’s crypto-mining journey has earned him an equivalent hourly wage of $23.

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