UK drug police uncover Bitcoin mining farm from power signature

May 28, 2021 // By Nick Flaherty
UK drug police uncover Bitcoin mining farm from power signature
Police chasing drug dealers in the West Midlands of the UK have unexpectedly uncovered a Bitcoin mining farm stealing electricity.

Police officers in the UK chasing drug dealers found a Birtcoin mining sever farm after they forced entry to the premises in Great Bridge Industrial Estate, Sandwell. The intelligence data from the heavy power consumption and heat generation suggesting it was being used as a cannabis farm, and a police drone had also picked up the heat signal.

Instead of drugs, the unit contained a farm of 100 servers mining Bitcoin. The electricity supply had been bypassed and thousands of pounds worth had been stolen to power the server farm. 

“It’s certainly not what we were expecting! It had all the hallmarks of a cannabis cultivation set-up and I believe it’s only the second such crypto mine we’ve encountered in the West Midlands,” said Jennifer Griffin, a police sergeant in Sandwell.

“My understanding is that mining for cryptocurrency is not itself illegal but clearly abstracting electricity from the mains supply to power it is,” she said. ““We’ve seized the equipment and will be looking into permanently seizing it under the Proceeds of Crime Act. No-one was at the unit at the time of the warrant and no arrests have been made – but we’ll be making enquiries with the unit’s owner.”

The power consumption of entirely legal cryptocurrency mining using high performance GPU graphics processors from Nvidia and AMD is an increasing issue, and miners are looking for extremely high efficiency power supplies as a result. Custom ASICs have also been developed for mining the cyptocurrencies.

One cryptocurrency, Ethereum, is planning a new version that cuts the power used to produce its digital coins by 90 percent, while MIT in the US devised a scheme with even lower power requirements. Startup DPO is proposing to use spare renewable energy at power stations to mine cryptocurrency without the environmental cost, and Nvidia has restricted the hash rate of its GPUs needed for all kinds of cryptocurrency mining, including Bitcoin and Ethereum, to reduce the appeal.

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