Future Tense

Thieves Steal 600 Bitcoin Mining Computers in Iceland

Iceland is a popular site for bitcoin mining because of its cheap energy, fast internet, and cold weather.
Iceland is a popular site for bitcoin mining because of its cheap energy, fast internet, and cold weather.
Halldor Kolbeins/AFP/Getty Images

Authorities in Iceland have arrested 11 people in connection with what they have deemed the biggest string of thefts in the country’s history, the Associated Press reports. About 600 bitcoin mining computers, worth almost $2 million in total, have gone missing across multiple data centers. The burglars stole the huge trove of hardware over the course of four break-ins in December and January. A judge on Friday ordered two of the suspects to remain in custody, while the nine others were released on bail.

“This is a grand theft on a scale unseen before,” Olafur Helgi Kjartansson, a police commissioner, told the AP. “Everything points to this being a highly organized crime.”

Locating the stolen goods will be difficult because the thieves need not sell the computers to make a profit. With a few exceptions, mining and trading bitcoin is a largely untraceable process. Law enforcement officials have not managed to recover any of the computers as of yet and are now contacting internet service providers, storage units, and power companies to be on the lookout for spikes in electricity consumption or any other signs that people may be using the miners.

In order to mine bitcoin, computers must use a large amount of power to solve complex mathematical equations and prevent the mining hardware from overheating. Iceland is a hub of mining activity because it has a wealth of cheap and renewable energy, cold weather, and fast fiber-optic internet networks, Business Insider has noted. The country will likely use more energy for bitcoin mining than it will for powering all of its homes combined over the next year.

Last week, news outlets in Malaysia reported that local authorities arrested nine people who were part of a crime syndicate that specializes in stealing Bitcoin mining computers. Police there claim to have recovered 58 miners.