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Bitcoin burglaries: Icelandic police count cost of cryptocurrency kit thefts from datacentres

Police in Iceland are investigating a spate of datacentre thefts, after thieves lifted 600 cryptocurrency-mining servers worth around $2m

Cryptocurrency-mining servers valued at $2m are still missing in action, following a spate of datacentre burglaries in Iceland, local police have confirmed.

A total of 600 servers were taken from the facilities during four separate burglaries between December 2017 and January 2018, prompting speculation the perpetrators may have shunned selling on the equipment in favour of profiteering from using it themselves.

The scale of the crime spree is unprecedented, said local police commissioner Olafur Helgi Kjartansson, whose patch includes the Reykjanes peninsula where two of the thefts are known to have taken place.

“This is a grand theft on a scale unseen before. Everything points to this being a highly organised crime,” he told the Associated Press.

With 11 people having been arrested in connection with the crime so far, two of the suspects are being remanded in custody at the behest of the Reykjanes District Court, as of Friday 2 March.

Colocation facilities in the Nordics have emerged as a popular location for cryptocurrency miners to house their rigs, as the region’s abundance of low-cost, renewable energy sources allows users to keep their overheads down and maximise profits.

Indeed, Computer Weekly recently reported on the launch of cryptocurrency mining-focused datacentre operator, The Moonlite Project, and its plans to open its first facility in Iceland later this year.

Read more about cryptocurrency mining and colocation

According to the Associated Press report, law enforcers are keeping close tabs on energy consumption levels across the country in case any spikes in unexpected locations could give a clue as to where the stolen equipment is.

In related news, Icelandic energy provider HS Orka aired concerns to the BBC in February 2018 about the pressure the explosive growth of cryptocurrency mining is putting on the country’s electricity supplies.

So much so, Johann Snorri Siguerbergsson, the company’s director of business development, said the amount of energy consumed by cryptocurrency-mining datacentres is likely to dwarf the amount used by the 340,000 people who live in the country.

“If all these projects are realised, we won’t have enough energy for it,” he told the BBC.

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