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Ex-Employee at Australian Science Agency Avoids Prison After Mining Crypto on Supercomputers

A former contractor for Australian science agency CSIRO was found to have mined around $7,000 in cryptocurrency.

Sep 18, 2020 at 8:28 a.m. UTC
Updated Sep 14, 2021 at 9:57 a.m. UTC

A former employee of an Australian federal agency has avoided prison after he was caught using government supercomputers to mine for cryptocurrency.

  • According to a report by The Sydney Morning Herald on Friday, Jonathan Khoo, 34, worked as a contractor for the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO).
  • Between January and February 2018, Khoo implemented code in two supercomputers for the purpose of mining cryptocurrency for his own personal financial gain.
  • Khoo was able to mine ether and monero worth a reported A$9,420 (US$6,897), which he deposited into his own personal wallets.
  • The CSIRO estimated Khoo's illegal mining pursuits cost the agency A$76,668 (US$56,133) worth of computing power and other resources.
  • Magistrate Erin Kennedy handed Khoo a 15-month intensive correction order on Friday; he will serve out his sentence via 300 hours of community service plus counseling.
  • After being discovered in February 2018, Australian federal police issued a search warrant and arrested Khoo later that month, the report said.
  • His actions "diverted" valuable computing power resources away from "significant scientific research," federal police cybercrime operations commander Chris Goldsmid said, including "data array analysis, medical research and climate modeling work."
  • The disgraced employee's lawyer told the local court that Khoo had no prior offenses and was remorseful for his actions.
  • Magistrate Kennedy on handing down the sentence acknowledged Khoo's guilty plea, but noted it was significant the CSIRO had been targeted and said Khoo's sentence had to act as a general deterrent.
  • In Australia, the maximum penalty for the crime – unauthorized modification of data to cause impairment – carries a sentence of 10 years imprisonment.

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