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UK Police Surprised Electricity Thieves Were Mining Crypto, not Growing Weed

GPU Mining
(Image credit: Shutterstock)

The world grows stranger every day. Case in point: The BBC today reported that West Midlands Police discovered a cryptocurrency mining operation comprised of “about 100 computer units” while they were searching a suspected cannabis farm.

Mining cryptocurrency isn’t all that different from growing cannabis. Both can lead to surprising amounts of profit, both rely on a fair amount of labor, and both require a significant amount of power to generate their highly valuable products.

Those last two similarities did the mining operation in. “Detectives said they were tipped off about lots of people visiting the unit throughout the day,” the BBC reported, “and a police drone picked up a lot of heat coming from the building.”

The report also claimed the miners “had stolen thousands of pounds of electricity.” (Hopefully, they lifted with their knees.) Instead of being used to power grow lights, however, that power was being used to mine an as-yet-unidentified cryptocurrency.

Mining operations have become increasingly contentious recently. Activist groups have opposed the establishment of mines in upstate New York power plants, for example, while parts of China have set up hotlines to report suspected miners.

Now it seems they’ll be problematic on even smaller scales as miners look to maximize their profits by stealing electricity instead of paying for it themselves—which could also bring them unwanted attention from law enforcement.

The saying goes “when you hear hoofbeats, think horses, not zebras.” Right now grow operations are the horses and mining operations are the zebras. How many more incidents like this, we wonder, will it take before that’s reversed?

  • edwpang
    I am wondering if the systems need to talk to each other or the outside world. I understand they don't need keyboard, mouse and display for mining, but it looks like they are not even connected to network.
    Reply
  • Phaaze88
    Oh, I needed a good laugh this morning...
    Reply
  • USAFRet
    edwpang said:
    I am wondering if the systems need to talk to each other or the outside world. I understand they don't need keyboard, mouse and display for mining, but it looks like they are not even connected to network.
    Electricity consumption and heat.

    If the elec company sees a particular residence and account all of a sudden using 3x the power, that gets flagged.
    Routinely, the police might ask the elec company about sudden excess use.

    Excess heat is readily identifiable from outside, with an IR camera.

    Both conditions can be indicative of a grow op or mining farm.
    Reply
  • AtrociKitty
    edwpang said:
    I am wondering if the systems need to talk to each other or the outside world. I understand they don't need keyboard, mouse and display for mining, but it looks like they are not even connected to network.
    It's a stock photo, not a picture of the mining operation described in the article.
    Reply
  • Eximo
    I recall a few years ago, a guy was renting an office that had utilities included. Only got caught because he used LED fans to exhaust out the window and the landlord noticed.
    Reply
  • King_V
    What a world we live in, where it's crypto instead of weed.

    My reaction:
    Reply
  • GenericUser
    Eximo said:
    I recall a few years ago, a guy was renting an office that had utilities included. Only got caught because he used LED fans to exhaust out the window and the landlord noticed.

    I remember reading the same thing. Wasn't that very story featured here a while ago? Seems like it was a bit older than a few years ago though.
    Reply
  • InvalidError
    USAFRet said:
    If the elec company sees a particular residence and account all of a sudden using 3x the power, that gets flagged.
    These miners are accused of stealing power, which usually means that the power meter must have been bypassed in whole or in part to avoid paying for the full amount of power consumed.
    Reply
  • spongiemaster
    edwpang said:
    I am wondering if the systems need to talk to each other or the outside world. I understand they don't need keyboard, mouse and display for mining, but it looks like they are not even connected to network.
    Here is the actual setup. They are definitely networked.

    Reply
  • USAFRet
    InvalidError said:
    These miners are accused of stealing power, which usually means that the power meter must have been bypassed in whole or in part to avoid paying for the full amount of power consumed.
    Right.
    Either that location dropped to near zero (Why?), or someone else in the neighborhood spiked (Why?)
    Reply