A data center that was blown up by Ukrainian law enforcement agencies this month for suspected electricity theft may have had a purpose other than mining cryptocurrencies. The Ukrainian security service called the facility the “largest underground crypto farm” found to date, but media reports have challenged this claim.
Ukrainian company files complaints about SBU raid on its facility
In early July, the Security Service of Ukraine (SBU) announced that it had discovered a crypto mining farm running on stolen energy in the city of Vinnytsia. Officials confiscated around 5,000 pieces of hardware, including 3,800 game consoles and 500 graphics cards, from a former warehouse in Vinnytsiaoblenerho. The local electricity company is said to have suffered losses of up to $ 256,000.
The illegal mining facility was operated by residents of Vinnytsia and the capital, Kiev, according to law enforcement agencies. According to an article by Ain.ua, the seized equipment belongs to a company called MMI Engineering, which deals with software development, network maintenance and AI training. Her lawyers contacted the news agency and accused the SBU of providing false information.
The IT company claims to get its electricity from JSC Vinnytsiaoblenerho and the region’s network operator, Enera Vinnytsia Ltd., and to pay its bills at commercial prices and according to the meter readings. It also rents the premises that house its hardware from a company called Alfa Energy, which is the current owner of the warehouse.
Meanwhile, Vinnytsiaoblenerho released a statement that the warehouse has never been occupied by a cryptocurrency farm. Even during an investigation with representatives of the regional branch of the Ukrainian State Inspectorate for Energy, the employees could not find any evidence of electricity theft. The utility emphasized:
The information about multimillion-dollar electricity thefts do not correspond to reality.
MMI Engineering said the seized devices cost around 30 million Ukrainian hryvnia (over $ 1 million) and are now trying to get them back. The company added that the SBU raid had brought its operations to a standstill and its lawyers had already filed official complaints with the Pechersk District Court and the Public Prosecutor General in Kiev.
It turns out that the alleged crypto mining farm is minting in-game currency
The Ukrainian company, owned by the UAE-based company Zafar Technology, did not disclose any specific uses of its computer equipment. Playstation 4 Slims game consoles and discs were spotted in photos released by the SBU on June 8th. And although it is generally possible to mine cryptos with them, many in Ukraine believe that the consoles were more used for game-related applications.
The evidence suggests that the Vinnytsia facility may have been a gaming bot farm rather than a crypto mining farm. According to an investigation report by the Ukrainian business portal Delo.ua, the bot farm could have been used for grinding. This is when players use software to perform repetitive in-game tasks that reward the player with something of value in the given scenario, such as gaining experience or leveling up a character. The SGE declined to comment on the possible use of the hardware and referred to the ongoing investigations.
Delo cited an unnamed SBU source who allegedly said the Playstations were used to “pump bots” for FIFA, EA Games’ famous soccer video game series. In FIFA’s popular Ultimate Team mode, players can put together a team of favorite players and compete against each other online.
You can either spend real money on loot boxes, which give them a limited chance of getting high quality cards, explains Eurogamer, or play for months to save enough FUT coins, the game currency, for the FIFA auction house. It appears that the PS4 consoles in the Ukrainian botfarm have been working on creating accounts with FUT money that can then be sold to players, likely on the black market.
What do you think of the case of the alleged crypto mining farm in Vinnytsia? Do share your thoughts in the comments section below.
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