back to article Bitcoin heist with a twist: This time it's servers that were stolen

Icelandic police have cuffed 11 people in connection with four raids on data centres that targeted cryptocurrency mining equipment. The raids started in December 2017 when three data centres were cracked in December. Another raid took place in January. 600 servers went missing in the heists. Icelandic police kept the raids …

  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    "The 600 servers are all still missing, the Associated Press reports. Which is no surprises: x86 kit is pretty generic. The real prize inside a bitcoin-mining rig is either GPUs, RAM or nicely fast solid state disks."

    Bitcoin mining is typically done with ASIC miners, not GPUs. Mining Bitcoin with a GPU is a waste of time. If they were actually x86 servers, they were probably Etherum or some other alt-coin. Etherum is best mined on GPUs.

    Miners typically boot off of a USB disks, not "fast solid state disks". You can boot ethOS to mine Etherum on a 8GB USB stick. http://ethosdistro.com/

    The real issue is the video cards have gotten expensive. The video cards were probably removed from the servers, and the servers dumped at an e-waste site. The video cards were probably re-installed into new servers and went into a new DC. The serial numbers are pretty hard to read, and no one is checking where the parts came from.

    1. MonkeyCee Silver badge

      Mining kit

      "Miners typically boot off of a USB disks, not "fast solid state disks". You can boot ethOS to mine Etherum on a 8GB USB stick. "

      While I generally agree with AC, it's pretty common to use a SSD in a miner these days. Saving an extra 20-30 euros while making the OS potentially flakey isn't really worth it even for a box you can touch. For one in a DC, I'd expect a SSD for reliability.

      The GPUs should be the only component that is worth much, RAM is typically less than a desktops worth (eg 8Gb on a 12 card rig), and the PSUs might be nice, but are pretty heavy.

      Keep an eye out for cheap GFX cards :)

    2. rh587

      and the servers dumped at an e-waste site.

      Or y'know, into a volcano. Iceland has a reliable stream of magma into which contraband can "disappear". An e-waste site would probably notice 600 server chassis turning up a week after a DC got rolled over.

      1. seven of five

        Ohhhh, volcano.

        Magma. I like the sound of that word :)

      2. DavCrav Silver badge
        Headmaster

        "Or y'know, into a volcano. Iceland has a reliable stream of magma"

        *cough* lava *cough*

    3. Flywheel Silver badge

      servers dumped at an e-waste site

      Environmentally-friendly crims then? Mind you, you'd expect that in a place like Iceland.

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Well, when the bottom falls out of the e-Tulip market

    I suppose the mining kit has some residual value for other uses.

  3. DougS Silver badge

    What happens when they find a bitcoin? If there are enough of them on the SSDs that haven't been transferred to the wallet of the server's owner(s) the value of the bitcoins might exceed the value of the servers. If I robbed someone and stole a very expensive safe, it probably isn't because I want that very expensive safe, but rather what's inside it...

    1. SloppyJesse

      That's not how blockchain mining works. The 'value' of a generated block is allocated to the public key of the miner that generated it. You'd need the private key to spend it and the miner has no need for that. A sensibly configured miner would not have access to private keys.

      1. phuzz Silver badge

        "A sensibly configured miner would not have access to private keys."

        So, probably about 10% of them have the private keys on the server then?

        1. DougS Silver badge

          You think 90% are sensibly configured? Where the hell do you work that this is a reasonable expectation??

          1. phuzz Silver badge

            Well, there might have been more, but they've all been hacked and gone out of business.

  4. Pascal Monett Silver badge
    Coat

    "The nation also has a low crime rate"

    Seems like that rate is on the rise.

  5. Khaptain Silver badge

    600 Servers = 1 truck and lots of muscle

    How the hell does someone manage to physically move 600 servers from a "Datacentre" without being noticed or alarm bells ringing. Or was this 600 VMs on one very large server.....

    Just the sheer volume of 600 servers seems impossible without having 600 thieves or a very special, very fast, very clever robot.

    So they had redundant backups/powerlines/data connections but no physical security cameras/padlocks/patrol agent.. etc

    Smells very fishy ( Icelandic fish of course)...

    1. David Webb

      Re: 600 Servers = 1 truck and lots of muscle

      Not server in the traditional sense, something to hold the motherboard, something to hold the GPU's and done. With a powerful enough power supply (with connectors) you can power more than one rig at a time. Motherboards can also be the smallest possible, in fact you want everything to be as small and power efficient as possible, this increases the return on your investment and increases profits (until the market crashes and all you have is a bunch of GPU's which everyone is trying to sell because the currency crashed and there are now a billion cards being sold on ebay).

      1. MonkeyCee Silver badge

        Re: 600 Servers = 1 truck and lots of muscle

        Miners != servers

        There are a few different ways of building a rig, which fall into roughly the following categories:

        - open air rack, specialist mobo with 8-13 pci-e connectors, 2-3 1600W+ PSUs

        - open air rack, high end mobo with 5-7 pci-e connections, 1600W or 2x 100oW PSU

        - case + rack, mid mobo with 4-5 pci-e connections, 1000W PSU

        - case only, mobo with 2 full size pci-e slots, 800W PSU

        The last one look pretty much like a server in a desktop case, I use old Dell Dimensions as the cost per card is cheap, but take up a bit more space. Second last on looks like a server with a rack above it.

        To get the density to make paying for a DC worthwhile, you probably need one of the first two arrangements. Since the GPUs are just screwed (or cable tied) into a frame, you can probably pull all the cards in a matter of minutes once you've cut the power. So stripping 600 miners (~3000 cards), 30 seconds a card would be about 17 man hours. So 6 people could probably do it over the course of an night.

        "With a powerful enough power supply (with connectors) you can power more than one rig at a time. "

        Eh, that's not a good plan. Most PSUs run optimally at about 50% load, so you either overspec the PSU, or you pay a premium for one that will do 80% efficiently and cram lots of stuff on the rig. Using multiple PSUs on a single rig is quite common, but the other way around is not something I've seen, nor would recommend. The GPUs are the big power draw anyway, even an inefficient system will only draw 100-150W at the wall, while each GPU will typically pull an extra 150W (225W for a 1080Ti)*.

        "until the market crashes and all you have is a bunch of GPU's which everyone is trying to sell because the currency crashed and there are now a billion cards being sold on ebay"

        That's close to what has happened (the crash that is). BTC went to 6k euro, and the alt coins followed suit, now BTC is back at 9k but the alt coins are still priced at the equivalent to 6k. A 1070 or higher is still profitable, my 1060s are just above breaking even, but still being run as a space heater at the moment.

        The major use of GPUs is still gaming**. Even cards that are no longer profitable to mine with have considerable resale value. That the prices have been bumped just makes those values higher. A four year old card sells for roughly 30% of it's purchase price, a year old one for 90-110%. Sold my 1060 3Gb cards for about 10-30 euro profit each, plus a years worth of mining.

        I've joked that simply buying and reselling GPUs is perhaps even more safe a way to make money than mining cryptos. 10% profit each 6 months, 20% if you buy in bulk.

        * YMMV, tuning power versus performance depends a lot on your power price, and how well your particular bit of silicon behaves under low voltage.

        ** Miners buy about 5% of the GPUs, but are more price sensitive than gamers. Thus the best bang for buck cards get cleared out, the remaining cards get a price bump, and then everyone puts off upgrading. New set of cheap cards arrive, rinse lather repeat.

    2. Scroticus Canis Silver badge
      Facepalm

      Re: 600 Servers = 1 truck and lots of muscle

      The article said there were four raids not one. So say 150 servers each raid so not such a big truck as no packaging and also less muscle required.

      I would also imagine they have trolleys and forklifts in Iceland which would have figured in my plans to do something like this; just like planning an installation in reverse.

  6. knarf

    The nation USED TO HAVE a low crime rate.

    Seems to be a mega for it now :)

    1. Korev Silver badge
      Joke

      Re: The nation USED TO HAVE a low crime rate.

      Probably "why mums go to Iceland"

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Iceland ... cheap energy

    ... though another article I read interviewed someone from the energy sector in Iceland warning that they were in danger of running out of supply capacity due to the number of miners moving in which doubtless may affect the "cheap energy"

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