Australian Police Investigates Bureau Of Meteorology Staff Over Crypto Mining

Australian Federal Police are reportedly investigating two Bureau of Meteorology (BOM) staff for allegedly using government computers to mine cryptocurrency.

The BOM is an executive agency of the Australian Government responsible for providing weather services to Australia and surrounding areas. It was established in 1906 under the Meteorology Act, and brought together the state meteorological services that existed before then.

An AFP spokesman confirmed that two BOM IT employees are being investigated for allegedly mining cryptocurrencies using the bureau’s “powerful computers.” The spokesman said a search warrant was executed at a business premises in Docklands on February 28, but was unable to make further comment, as “the investigation is ongoing.”

“If the employees were mining cryptocurrency, they may have been using the bureau’s computers to either avoid the significant electricity bills involved in mining,” Chris Berg from the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology’s Blockchain Innovation Hub explained. “Or they may have been taking advantage of the bureau’s powerful computational power.” The Bureau of Meteorology has some very fast computers.”

In November 2016, the BOM received a new Cray XC-40 supercomputer to bolster the agency’s ability to predict the weather. The Cray XC-40 supercomputer runs on a Linux-based operating system, specifically designed to run large, complex applications and scale efficiently to more than 500,000 processor cores. It houses 2,160 compute nodes, with 51,840 Intel Xeon cores, 276TB of RAM, and a usable storage of 4.3PB.

This is not the first time the BOM has faced questions over security. In 2016, Australia’s cyber security center revealed the agency had been hacked by foreign spies who stole an “unknown quantity of documents.” Last month, local news outlet ABC reported the agency’s website was running ads that linked out to fake news sites promoting bitcoin scams.

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