In Depth

Bitcoin heist: thieves in Iceland steal 600 cryptocurrency mining computers

Police hope tracking spikes in electricity use will lead them to missing machines

Police in Iceland have arrested 11 people in connection with the coordinated thefts of a total of 600 powerful computers used to mine for cryptocurrencies such as bitcoin. 

The robbery has been dubbed the “big bitcoin heist” by local media, the Associated Press reports, with police calling it one of the largest thefts ever to occur in the country. 

The stolen computers are collectively worth around $2m (£1.5m) and were used to solve complicated algorithms in order to generate more coins in virtual currencies, the AP says. 

According to Cnet, the majority of the computers were stolen from Icelandic server firm Advania, which caught the robbers on CCTV. The company had been offering its customers access to its mining machines.

Authorities in Iceland are tracking the country’s energy consumption in a bid to find the missing computers, the tech news site says. If the machines are activated, it would “place a strain on the grid” and could help police locate them. 

Bitcoin mining has been in “high demand” in Iceland due to the country’s “relatively cheap” cost of electricity, according to Ars Technica

If the trend continues, the site adds, cryptocurrency mining will use up more energy than all of the country’s 300,000 residents combined by the end of year.

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