Late last year, 600 Bitcoin mining computers were stolen from Reykjanesbær, Iceland in a series of capers. Now, 600 Bitcoin mining computers have been seized in China, and the similarities are too much to ignore.
Bitcoin miners like Iceland. In fact, its low temperatures and cheap geothermal electricity is the perfect recipe for mining farms. Essentially, when someone “mines” Bitcoin, they’ve tasked their computer to break down complex problems that unlock transactions and validate the Blockchain–Bitcoin’s underlying technology.
Apparently, according to the Reykjavik Grapevine, mining hardware was at one time drawing more energy from Iceland’s power grid than all other domestic usage combined.
In the early days, basic desktop computers could mine bitcoin. Afterward, gaming graphics cards were used to increase the computational power. Finally, ASIC processors (which are very costly) became the go-to for any respectable mining hardware.
The power requirements for these devices are huge. That’s one way they are easily noticed wherever they are added to a power grid.
In January, Advania, an Icelandic IT company, provided video of unauthorized persons stealing computers from a Reykjanesbær data center. Later, in March, the Associated Press reported that two out of eleven persons taken into custody were held positively identified.
Last month, the media were trying to keep up with a very strange criminal case involving a “prison break," an escape abroad and the biggest series of thefts in the history of #Iceland (the “Big #Bitcoin Heist”). See how it finally ended. https://t.co/ytSxhogSaQ pic.twitter.com/gfosTdZ5Vv
— Reykjavík Grapevine (@rvkgrapevine) May 10, 2018
Then, in April, Sindri Þór Stefánsson, one of the men held for the burglary, fled the country. Supposedly, Sindri was a “free man” at the time despite have an international arrest warrant issued for him after his departure.
Iceland police were never able to find the stolen Bitcoin mining hardware. They asked power grid operators, IT technicians, and electricians to report any unusually high power usage, but nothing ever came up.
Unfortunately, they can’t monitor the power grid in China.
Stolen Mining Hardware Surfaces in China?
Later in April, police in the Chinese city of Tianjin seized 600 Bitcoin mining computers after a local power grid operator noticed abnormally-high electricity usage.
Given the exact number of the mining computers and the fact that they were never found in Iceland, this seems to be more than happenstance. Iceland authorities agree, and they have reportedly reached out to Chinese officials to investigate further.
With China’s troubled recent history with cryptocurrency, it’s hard to imagine these two cases being unrelated. This is compounded by Icelandic police commissioner Olafur Helgi Kjartansson’s statement: “This is a grand theft on a scale unseen before.” He described the operation as “highly organized crime”.