The Australian Federal Police (AFP) on Monday announced the sentencing of a 34-year old man from Sydney for using Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) equipment to carry out cryptocurrency mining.
The North Shore man was hired as a contractor in January 2018 and had access to the servers and supercomputers he used for mining to perform his employed role in data archiving and software support.
The AFP said the man accessed servers and supercomputers meant for undertaking a range of official scientific research and modified data within those systems, without authorisation, to mine cryptocurrency for his personal gain.
It is estimated the man mined approximately AU$9,400 in cryptocurrency.
The AFP's Cybercrime Operations unit launched an investigation after CSIRO detected a "serious impairment of its infrastructure" and immediately reported it to the AFP. The feds executed a search warrant at the man's property in March 2018, seizing a laptop and mobile phone, among other items.
The man was charged in May 2019 with manipulating the computer programs of a federal governmental agency to mine cryptocurrency while being employed as a government IT contractor.
He pleaded guilty on 28 February 2020 to the charge of unauthorised modification of data to cause impairment, and on Friday was sentenced to a 15-month imprisonment term to be served by way of an intensive community order, which includes 300 hours of community service.
"Throughout the investigation it was calculated the minimum monetary impairment of the CSIRO supercomputers equated to at least AU$76,000," the AFP said in a statement.
"This man's activities diverted these supercomputer resources away from performing significant scientific research for the nation, including Pulsar Data Array Analysis, medical research, and climate modelling work to measure impacts to the environment from climate change," AFP commander of Cybercrime Operations Chris Goldsmid added.
"The consequences are clear -- this was a misuse of Australian taxpayers' trust by a Commonwealth employee, motivated by personal gain and greed."
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