Chinese bitcoin bandits who hijacked internet cafe computers caught out by huge electricity bill

  • Three employees of computer maintenance company detained for installing ‘malware’ on clients’ machines
  • Police said gang made US$24,000 from their illegal activities
PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 31 October, 2018, 7:02pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 31 October, 2018, 7:02pm

An internet cafe owner in east China who was baffled by a large spike in his electricity bill ended up helping police to crack an illegal bitcoin operation after discovering his machines had been hijacked to “mine” the cryptocurrency.

Identified only as Zhang, the businessman asked a friend to investigate why he was paying so much to run the 150 computers he has at his two shops in Hangzhou, capital of Zhejiang province, news portal reported.

The friend, who was not named, found the machines were running cryptocurrency mining programs, which consume huge amounts of electricity. When he passed the information on to Zhang, he reported the matter to the authorities.

An investigation by police in police in the city’s Xiacheng district led them to a computer maintenance company, which was found to have installed the mining “malware” not only on Zhang’s computers but also on about 10,000 others in 115 internet cafes across the city, the report said

Three people were detained and are in the process of being charged, police said via social media. The gang had made more than 170,000 yuan (US$24,400) from mining and trading cryptocurrency and if found guilty would face up to three years in prison, they said.

Beijing bans bitcoin, but when did it all go wrong for cryptocurrencies in China?

Despite once being home to some of the world’s largest bitcoin mining operations, Beijing effectively banned the practice at the start of this year, with one of the reasons being the massive amount of power the mining programs need to operate. Authorities had earlier ordered the closure of all cryptocurrency trading platforms.

There are currently about 17 million bitcoin in circulation around the world, each worth about US$6,250.