Authorities in Iceland have detained 11 people in what local media call the “Big Bitcoin Heist.” Thieves reportedly made off with $2 million worth of Bitcoin-mining hardware from data centers on the southwestern Reykjanes peninsula.
The highly orchestrated heist occurred in multiple locations at different times, and was conducted by several people, two of whom are in custody as ordered by a judge at the Reykjanes District Court on Friday, AP reports.
CCTV footage captured by Advania, one of the affected data centers, reveals thieves made off with 600 graphics cards and 100 sets of processors, power supplies, motherboards and memory modules.
“This is a grand theft on a scale unseen before,” said Olafur Helgi Kjartansson, the police commissioner investigating two of three confirmed heists. “Everything points to this being a highly organized crime.”
The cryptocurrency gold rush has spawned numerous such incidents worldwide in the past year, with some even kidnapping investors to demand digital currency in return for their release.
The hype has also made countries such as Iceland – which generates nearly all its electricity from renewable energy – a Bitcoin-mining heaven. Mining cryptocurrency demands immense computing power which, in turn, draws considerable amounts of energy from the grid.
Striking a balance between power consumption and generating new coins is essential when mining cryptographically complex currencies like bitcoin. Other digital currencies are easier to mine, but are also far less valuable. Bitcoin currently trades at $11,000 apiece, whereas the next-most popular ‘altcoin,’ Ethereum, is just $850 per unit.
Power consumption is what Icelandic authorities hope will lead to the arrest of those still at large after the Big Bitcoin Heist. Any spike in power use across the country will act as a blip on authorities’ radar, potentially leading to the authors of the operation.
“Police tracking the stolen computers are monitoring electric consumption across the country in hopes the thieves will show their hand, according to an industry source who spoke on condition of anonymity because he is not allowed to speak to the media,” the AP reports.
Authorities are also working with internet providers, electricians and storage space units to detect any unusual requests for power.
At the very least, the perps could sell the hardware, but even then they have to be careful not to get caught.