back to article Ruskie boffins blasted for using nuke bomb lab's supercomputer to mine crypto-rubles

Engineers at Russia's top nuclear weapons lab have been arrested – after the eggheads were caught using one of the supercomputers to mine cryptocurrency. The government-run research facility at Sarov, southeast of Moscow, has been developing nuke bomb technology since the 1940s. It is a closed town, meaning you need a permit …

  1. James O'Shea Silver badge

    what really happened

    was that they didn't pay the Shirtless Brony his cut. Baaaad idea.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: what really happened

      There may be less to this story than first appears and I suspect that it has been 'sexed up' for the sake of sensationalism.

      First of all, there's little doubt that something nefarious occurred at "The government-run research facility at Sarov" because the Russians have told us so and, because of the nature of the work done at the facility, the only credible source of that information is the Russian Government, represented by the research institute operating the facility. It is not credible that this information was 'uncovered' by western spies (who would rather keep the info to themselves) or by either eastern or western journalism.

      However, the statement upon which this news story is based actually refers to misuse of "office computing capacities" and not supercomputing capacities.

      There's also the fact that supercomputers spend very little time being idle and have to be kept working to make them worth their considerable cost. Furthermore, computing time on supercomputers has to be scheduled in advance and just loading some of the input datasets may take several days1. In view of this, the idea that someone could sneak a cryptocurrency mining load on the system and not be noticed until they allegedly tried to "connect it to the internet" doesn't seem credible.

      What is more likely is that the "office computing capacities" referred to weren't typical desktop PCs being used for Wordski but were high-spec workstations of the sort that you'd need for both preparing and inspecting the input datasets, and checking and visualising the results you're getting.

      1 Supercomputers are not used with a single on-going dataset - they work on many different problems, each with their own input datasets, collected or generated by other external systems; the input datasets don't originate on the supercomputer and have to be transferred from other systems. These datasets tend to be large because, essentially, what supercomputers are used for is to turn big incomprehensible datasets in to smaller comprehensible datasets.

  2. Tomato42 Silver badge

    Happy engineers?

    Nothing says "well paid and satisfied engineers" like compromising top secret infrastructure to mine few microBitcoins.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Happy engineers?

      Never underestimate the power of human greed.

    2. Voland's right hand Silver badge

      Re: Happy engineers?

      A PetaFlop super even for a half an hour or so would have produced significantly more than a few microBitcoins.

      We do not know how big is the super in question. These are Russians we are talking about. Doing half-measures is against nature even if the consequences are likely to be dire, so they most likely applied the well known principle of "Раз пошла такая пьянка, режь последний огурец" (*). Based on that, my educated guess is that they either hijacked most of the super or all of it for this for an overnight or weekend run. If they succeeded in getting away with it for as little as a weekend, it would have been a nice rounded number in the 10s of k if not 100k range (depending on the size of the super).

      100k for a weekend side job is a strong stimulus. Even outside Russia

      (*)This cannot be translated meaningfully, it can only be explained. Its usual meaning is: Well, if we have gotten to this point, we might as well go all the way

      1. Fruit and Nutcase Silver badge

        Re: Happy engineers?

        @Voland's right hand

        Doing half-measures is against nature even if the consequences are likely to be dire

        Indeed. On a lighter note...

        It's Just a Joke, Comrade: 100 Years of Russian Satire

      2. StargateSg7 Bronze badge

        Re: Happy engineers?

        The German Equivalent is "Warum es einfach bilden sie, wenn der komplex auch arbeitet."

        or "Why make it simple, when the complex also works!"

        or in YODA-speak. Do or Do Not. There Is No Try!

        1. allthecoolshortnamesweretaken

          Re: Happy engineers?

          The German Equivalent is "Warum es einfach bilden sie, wenn der komplex auch arbeitet."

          Oh no, it isn't.

      3. CrazyOldCatMan Silver badge

        Re: Happy engineers?

        This cannot be translated meaningfully, it can only be explained. Its usual meaning is: Well, if we have gotten to this point, we might as well go all the way

        Or as we say in the grasping capitalist West: "May as well be hung for a sheep as a lamb".

        (This comes from a time in England in 17th and 18th centuries when draconian punishments were common - being hanged for stealing 10 shillings-worth of stuff means no extra risk for stealing £10-worth of stuff. Or committing murder to do it. Which is somewhat self-defeating..)

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Happy engineers?

      Makes you wonder how low their price would have been for full plans of an atomic weapon, and perhaps some of the harder to source parts.

      1. Voland's right hand Silver badge

        Re: Happy engineers?

        Watch this from 47:00 onwards.

        This should answer your question about atomic bombs and their applications.

        By the way - the Beeb show is frankly on the lame side (by the standards of someone who has seen the actual satire and comedy live). Probably interesting for a non-Russian speaking audience though.

  3. Chris King Silver badge

    Dosvedanya, nerdskis !

    I've seen people use cryptocurrency mining to stress-test HPC clusters before they go into service, but it's usually declared a no-no once the machine is live.

    Attempting to connect up a machine of that scale to the internet would make it a big target for rogue cryptocurrency miners, secret-squirrel nuke simulation data aside. I wouldn't want to be in their shoes right now.

    1. Pascal Monett Silver badge

      Re: Dosvedanya, nerdskis !

      And you're not going to want to be in their shoes for quite a while, I reckon.

      I don't think Russian prisons and methods have been upgraded much since the Soviet era, and these guys were fooling around in a top-secret, military-style location. The consequences will most certainly not be pleasant.

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Obviously not quite as secret as your article makes out

    Security is so tight it doesn't appear on maps....

    O, RLY???

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Obviously not quite as secret as your article makes out

      Not just that. There are a few pictures and by god they are depressing.

      Hrushovka style 5-floor concrete abominations which are probably 60 years old by now.

      That whole region is full of towns like this. If you are a foreigner is advisable to stay on the main highway unless you want to run into Arzamas Number N-th and end up explaining the FSB what the f*** where you doing there.

    2. sloshnmosh

      Re: Obviously not quite as secret as your article makes out

      I wonder if one of the labs "eggheads" was using a FitBit app?

  5. Jay Lenovo Silver badge

    The world's largest Minecraft server

    Too bad, could have spawned all the diamonds and gold they wanted.

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    How much could or did they actually mine? If you try and throw petaflops at it you are going to need some serious bandwidth to keep up.

  7. Mark 85 Silver badge

    A criminal investigation is underway, and the brainiacs are unlikely to keep their jobs, we reckon.

    I'm sure that their job is the least of their worries at this point.

    1. Terry 6 Silver badge

      I'm sure that keeping their job* is the least of their worries at this point.

      *As opposed to various body parts.


  8. Fruit and Nutcase Silver badge

    What they should have done

    is to hack into Facebook's data centers - plenty of processing power there. Perhaps Zuckerberg will then take notice...

  9. handleoclast

    Putin is losing his touch

    Putin should have made it official policy to mine cryptocurrencies on Russia's supercomputers. Two reasons.

    1) It gets around sanctions. He can effectively (but with a lot of inefficiencies) sell oil for dollars. The oil powers generators that run supercomputers that mine cryptocurrencies that are exchanged for dollars. Doesn't make as much as selling the oil direct, but gets around sanctions.

    2) It gives him enough cryptocurrencies to pump the market value. Done at the right time it might be enough to tip them into a recession.


    1. aks Bronze badge

      Re: Putin is losing his touch

      > Putin is losing his touch

      Who says he's not mining cryptocurrencies? The Chinese are doing it on an industrial scale.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Putin is losing his touch

      Putin is losing his touch

      Option 1. Not his style. They are not hurting anywhere near as much as we would like them to be. Trying to do anything more will end up in WW3. And last and not least - at this rate Eu will not get the votes to renew them in March/April. I do not see it collecting the votes next time.

      He is also using sanctions extensively to bootstrap economy sectors which the alcoholic in charge before him let to rot completely like agriculture. He could not do that before without entering a trade war with the Eu and their agriculture was being practically bulldozed into the ground by stuff sold under cost courtesy of CAP subsidies. He is not succeeding everywhere, but some mileage has been clocked. Will it be enough once the sanctions are down and the CAP sponsored food re-floods the market? Nobody knows. I would not be surprised, however to see Russian NOT lifting (to the great dismay of the Eu) the majority of agricultural product tariffs and restrictions introduced as counter-sanctions. In fact, I can bet on that.

      Option 2. Now, that is a different story. It is quite likely that both him and the Chinese are doing that. This is the only way one can explain the rather crazy cryptocoin market moves in the last year or so. Can't blame him either. Considering how we have screwed with their financial system including the open attempt to deprive 50% of the population there from their "emergency last resort" savings (that was what the 500Eu note was all about - 10% were in mobster circulation, remaining 90% were sitting under mattresses in Russian houses).

      So yeah... option 2 is quite likely.

  10. rh587 Bronze badge

    Security is so tight it doesn't appear on maps.

    Like this one?

    As I recall, OS used to do the same for sensitive British sites. In some cases this led to rather conspicuous areas of white space on the edge of a town.

    When the Wall came down and material started to go East and West, British cartographers were shocked - Shocked I tell you - to find the Russians had maps of those sites which were pretty much as accurate as the unadulterated OS Master Map.

    Something to do with pesky satellites and spies using their eyes to look down upon military sites from convenient nearby hills!

  11. rtb61

    Finally Good Hacking

    So design nuclear weapons or mine bitcoin, hmm. Bitcoin is a ponzi scheme con, so not so nice, on the other had nuclear weapons, well, they are absolutely mind bogglingly the most evil shit on the plant, nothing on this earth is worse the those fucking weapons and pieces of shit who design and make them (sorry fuckers you choose that job and in all honestly no matter where in the world you should be publicly condemned for seeking to profit by mass murder).

    So who is worse naughty bitcoin miners or the designers of the extinction of humanity, hmm, let me think, well, jesus, those evil fuckers have got away with profiting from true evil for decades, kick a nuclear weapon designing freak in the balls today, whoops that is a bad thing to write, so I take it back but apparently them making weapons designed to mass murder everyone is to be commended, so irradiating, then setting people on fire and then blowing them up, yahh, I suppose :?.

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