Last week, the Security Service of Ukraine (SBU) shut down a huge, illegal cryptofarm in the city of Vinnytsia, thought to be the country’s biggest ever. The perpetrators established their operation in an old warehouse, before setting up almost 5,000 cryptomining processors, which included 3,800 converted PlayStation 4 consoles.
It isn’t illegal to mine for cryptocurrency in Ukraine, meaning if you’ve got a few thousand old PlayStations lying around, there’s nothing stopping you from setting up your own farm in Eastern Europe. What brought this group of Bitcoin bandits unstuck was the enormous electricity theft that they performed to power their operation.
The SBU estimates the crooks were stealing as much as nearly $350,000 worth of electricity every month, covering their tracks by using electricity meters that didn’t actually show how much energy they were using. According to the SBU, this electricity theft could have led to surges through the grid and blackouts where “entire neighbourhoods of Vinnytsia could be left without electricity.”
The SBU managed to seize 3,800 gaming consoles, 500 video cards, 50 processors, and documentation related to financial accounting for electricity consumption. Those arrested, believed to be residents of Kyiv and Vinnytsia, are set to be charged with electricity theft.
With more than 115 million PlayStation 4 Consoles sold around the world since it was first released at the end of 2013, finding 3,800 units in one place probably isn’t that hard. But the images released by the SBU, showing seemingly infinite rows of the sleek gaming console against the backdrop of a rundown warehouse, resembles a dystopian nightmare.
How do you actually mine cryptocurrency using PlayStation 4 consoles? According to these calculations, it’s entirely feasible, but highly inefficient, meaning it would have been impossible for the operation to make any money without stealing electricity.