Two Russian citizens are being prosecuted for allegedly targeting computers at state organizations to illicitly mine cryptocurrency.

The two unnamed individuals purportedly infected the hardware with a program that mines cryptocurrency via a web browser, local media agency Tass reported on Dec. 16.

One of the suspects, a resident of the city of Kurgan, is reported to have created an extensive botnet to infect computers across various regions of the country. The second suspect reportedly focused his mining operations on hardware at the state water utility JSC Rostovvodokanal. 

Mining can use up to 80% of targets’ processing power, official warns

As reported, the illicit use of a computer’s processing power to mine for cryptocurrencies without the owner’s consent or knowledge is sometimes referred to as cryptojacking. 

While Tass does not disclose details of the cryptocurrency mined by the two suspects, malware such as a coin miner — based on Coinhive code – is one example of a prevalent program designed to illicitly mine Monero (XMR) via a browser.

In a statement delivered at a press conference on Dec. 16, Nikolay Murashov — Deputy Director of Russia’s National Coordination Center for Computer Incidents —  noted that “up to 80% of the computer’s free power can be used to generate virtual coins, and a legitimate user may not even know about it.”

Murashob underscored that this illicit use of processing power can adversely impact business operations and damage companies’ performance, warning organizations to implement adequate cybersecurity measures. 

Tightening regulations

Perhaps the most notorious case of illicit mining at a state-owned organization in Russia was foiled back in Feb. 2018, when Russian security agents scored a coup against a group of nuclear engineers at a top-secret nuclear warhead facility who had attempted to use one of the country’s most powerful supercomputers to mine Bitcoin (BTC).

Recent developments in Russia have included an alleged plan to pass legislation that would allow authorities to confiscate cryptocurrency holdings as part of judicial proceedings.

CryptoNewspeople has also reported that Russia’s central bank, financial regulator and Ministry of Finance are said to be supportive of a ban on the use of cryptocurrencies to pay for goods and services.