Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies are often associated with various criminal activities, such as fraud and theft. But there exists another less-reported crime, taking place in the mining phase. Bitcoin mining requires a significant source of power, and opportunistic miners have been stealing power to run their mining operations, profiting vast sums of money with relatively little overhead.
What is Crypto-Mining?
Cryptocurrency mining occurs when a person uses their computer to solve an immensely complex math problem. Put simply, miners are searching for unique codes that will allow them to create new currency. This requires a lot of computer processing, which in turn requires significant energy.
How Bitcoin Miners are Stealing Power
Bitcoin mining power theft is usually done through two-methods.
The first method is to hijack someone else’s CPU, by inserting a script in their computer that takes control of the system’s main functions. Then, the hijacker can mine Bitcoin using the victim’s computer. Victims are often unaware this is taking place, and merely notice their computer fans turning on and CPU slowing. This hijacking can take place by simply visiting the wrong website. As the user browses the website, the site’s code runs Bitcoin mining code in the background. This type of mining theft operation often takes place at great scale, across hundreds of thousands of computers.
The second method is to simply hardwire a bitcoin mining computer into a power source which you do not pay for or have authority to utilize. While this is a more difficult method to scale, many criminals utilize this method, resulting in large amount of electricity stolen each year. In Malaysia, electricity theft for mining activity caused frequent power outages.
What is the United States Government Doing About it?
While both of the above Bitcoin mining schemes are illegal under existing US law, actually putting a stop to the activity is no easy task. Cryptocurrency miners will often band together, making them resilient to takedown operations. One method that seemingly had some mitigating effect was cryptocurrency authorities altering algorithms relating to mining activity, requiring illegal miners to alter their malware.
Electricity theft is a serious crime, with criminal and civil consequences. Victims stand to lose vast sums of money. Cryptocurrency mining related electricity theft even has negative consequences
The United States government has taken the traditional approach to combatting this issue: investigating and arresting select individuals. If you are one of the unlucky few individuals arrested because of a cryptocurrency mining-related electricity theft, prosecutors are likely interested in making an example out of your case. Contact a criminal defense attorney with experience in trial work to best protect your rights.