Most times, when the term “bitcoin heist” comes up, it is usually about hackers or some other cybercriminals pulling off a digital theft of bitcoin from wallets or crypto exchange platforms.
In Iceland, a suspected crime ring has pulled off a series of coordinated heists, resulting in the theft of 600 bitcoin-mining computers from data centres as well as a home in Iceland. According to state officials, this is the biggest crime wave ever recorded in the history of the sparsely populated North Atlantic island country of Iceland.
Olafur Helgi Kjartansson who is the police commissioner for the Reykjanes peninsula on the southwestern part of the country described the thefts as being on a scale that had not been seen before in the country. There has been a total of four burglary cases and two of them took place in the Reykjanes peninsula.
Commissioner Kjartansson in a statement quoted by the Associated Press said that there were massive indications that the thefts were orchestrated by an organized crime ring.
Of the four burglary cases so far, three of them took place in December 2017 while the fourth burglary incident happened in January 2018. Law enforcement authorities in the country elected not to disclose the information earlier in the hopes of catching up with the suspected thieves.
The burglary incidents resulted in the theft of not just only computers but of graphics cards, processors, power supplies, motherboards, and computer memory. Of the 4 heists, 1 of them occurred in a home where the other aforementioned bitcoin mining hardware was stolen.
The breakdown of the total number of items is as follows: 600 computers, 100 sets of computer memory, 100 processors, 100 power supplies, and 600 graphics cards. Advania, a server company in Iceland was hit by 2 of the heists and the thefts were caught on the company’s security cameras.
The stolen bitcoin-mining computers are worth about $2 million.
The authorities in Iceland have already made a number of arrests. So far, eleven people have been arrested, including an individual who works as a security guard. Also, two of the arrested individuals have been remanded in custody based on a ruling issued the Reykjanes District Court on Friday, March 2, 2018.
While the authorities haven’t had any luck in locating the stolen computers, the police in Iceland have asked power companies to monitor electricity usage and report any suspicious electric consumption.
Bitcoin mining consumes a great deal of electricity and if the thieves decide to use the stolen hardware to mine for bitcoin, the upsurge in power consumption will be an easy red flag for power companies and the police.
Iceland has become a hotbed for bitcoin mining activities due to its climate and cheap energy. The country has an abundance of geothermal and hydroelectric power generation potential which makes energy prices to be significantly lower than many other countries.
The cold climate also serves as a natural heat sink for the bitcoin mining process which generates a lot of heat.
Feature image by Cas Prins