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Aussie Government IT Worker Arrested for Cryptomining

An Australian government IT contractor has been arrested on suspicion of making thousands from an illegal cryptocurrency mining operation at work.

The 33-year-old New South Wales man appeared in court today after allegedly earning AU$9000 ($6188) by “modifying his agency’s computer systems,” according to the Australian Federal Police (AFP).

At Sydney Local Court, he was charged with unauthorized modification of data to cause impairment, and unauthorized modification of restricted data, contrary to the Criminal Code Act 1995.

The charges carry a maximum penalty of 10 years and two years behind bars, respectively.

“Australian taxpayers put their trust in public officials to perform vital roles for our community with the utmost integrity,” argued acting commander, Chris Goldsmid, AFP manager cybercrime operations. “Any alleged criminal conduct which betrays this trust for personal gain will be investigated and prosecuted.”

It’s unclear how the man was eventually caught, but his home was raided by the AFP in March and personal laptop, phone employee ID cards and data files were seized.

Cryptocurrency mining continues to be a threat to businesses, while consumer detections have fallen to almost zero, according to a Malwarebytes report released in April. It said the latter trend had been influenced by Coinhive’s decision to shut down earlier this year.

Although most cryptomining in businesses occurs covertly, directed by external botnet herders in charge of compromised machines, there is always the risk of an insider threat.

A Chinese headmaster was fired last year after secretly mining cryptocurrency using his school’s electricity supply. Hunan man Lei Hua hooked up eight mining machines to the mains, running up an electricity bill of 14,700 yuan ($2125) mining Ethereum 24 hours a day.

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