Australian Dodges Prison After Mining Crypto on Supercomputer


A former employee of an Australian federal agency, Jonathan Khoo dodged prison after using government supercomputers to mine crypto.

September 20, 2020 | AtoZ MarketsJonathan Khoo, a former 34-year-old  contractor for the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO), was alleged to have used the supercomputers at work in order to mine Ethereum and Monero.

What Khoo’s illegal crypto mining pursuits cost the agency

According to The Sydney Morning Herald, Khoo’s January 2018 mining operation returned approximately $9,400 Australian dollars ($6,850 USD) while costing the CSIRO at least $76,000 AUD ($55,400 USD) from lost productivity and misconfiguration.

Between January and February 2018, Khoo implemented code in two supercomputers for the purpose of mining cryptocurrency for his own personal financial gain.

Read also: Crypto mining malware remains a critical Internet threat

AFP Commander Cybercrime Operations Chris Goldsmid said in the AFP release that Khoo “diverted these supercomputer resources away from performing significant scientific research for the nation, including Pulsar Data Array Analysis, medical research and climate modeling work to measure impacts to the environment from climate change.”

How Khoo evaded jail time

However, despite his wrongdoings, it appears as though the Australian Federal Court has decided to not send the ex-CSIRO employee to jail. After his court appearance, magistrate Erin Kennedy handed Khoo a 15-month intensive correction order on Friday. The magistrate had decreed that the former CSIRO agent will serve his sentence through 300 hours of community service.

Khoo’s legal attorney Avni Djemal had argued in court that his client held no prior offenses, had admitted the wrongdoing when confronted by the police, and had shown serious remorse for his actions. He also called on the court’s empathy by saying that CSIRO fired Khoo following charges of illicit crypto mining.

Magistrate Kennedy on handing down the sentence noted the significance of having a government research organization targeted by a rogue contractor, implying greater harm could have befallen the public resources if Khoo or another actor had more malicious intentions.

Read also: Russia’s Sberbank Buys 5,000 Blockchain ATMs for Crypto Mining

In other cases, the maximum penalty that an offender could accumulate for “unauthorized modification of data to cause impairment” was 10 years in prison.

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