Russian Interfax news agency reported that several scientists at the country's top nuclear research facility had been arrested for mining cryptocurrency with "office computing resources."
The place known as the All-Russian Research Institute of Experimental Physics, is a restricted area with high security in one of a number of "closed cities." These cities are off-limits to travelers, and aren’t even marked on Russian maps.
Created for the purpose of nuclear research, it is also the birthplace of Soviet Union's first nuclear bomb, intentionally created during the Cold War under Joseph Stalin’s rule.
The scientists were caught red-handed while attempting to connect the lab's supercomputer to the internet, which was supposed to be offline to ensure security.
"There has been an unsanctioned attempt to use computer facilities for private purposes including so-called mining," said Tatyana Zalesskaya, head of the Institute's press service. "Their activities were stopped in time. The bungling miners have been detained by the competent authorities. As far as I know, a criminal case has been opened regarding them."
Cryptocurrency has gained huge popularity over the past year. However, as its popularity rises, mining a single Bitcoin is becoming more and more difficult as it requires an enormous amount of computational power and huge amounts of energy.
Here, the facility which reportedly employs up to 20,000 people, uses a SCADA-based power plant monitoring and management system with a 1 petaflop supercomputer. This is the equivalent of 1,000 trillion calculations per second. Used since 2011, it was the twelfth most powerful supercomputer in the world at that time.
Powerful computer without having to pay for electricity bills themselves, the engineers saw a perfect fit.
This isn't the first time industrial facilities in Russia have been used to mine cryptocurrency as Russian lawmakers started to regulate the burgeoning yet volatile digital currency market.
According to spokesperson Zalesskaya, any similar attempts in the future “will be harshly put down [...] This activity technically has no future and is punishable as a crime.”