This month, the data center destroyed by Ukrainian law enforcement agencies on suspicion of electricity theft may have a different purpose than mining cryptocurrency. Ukrainian security services described the facility as the “largest underground crypto farm” discovered so far, but media reports questioned this claim.
Ukrainian company filed a complaint against SBU’s raid on its facility
In early July, the Ukrainian Security Service (SBU) announced that it had discovered an encrypted mine in Vinnytsia that used stolen energy to supply electricity. Officials seized about 5,000 pieces of hardware, including 3,800 game consoles and 500 video cards, from the former warehouse of Vinnytsiaoblenerho. The local power company allegedly suffered losses of up to US$256,000.
Law enforcement agencies stated that illegal mining facilities are operated by residents of Vinnytsia and the capital, Kiev. According to an article by Ain.ua, the confiscated equipment belonged to a company called MMI Engineering, which was engaged in software development, network maintenance and AI training. His lawyer contacted the news media and accused the SBU of spreading false information.
The IT company claims that it buys electricity from JSC Vinnytsiaoblenerho and Enera Vinnytsia Ltd., a grid operator in the area, and pays bills based on commercial electricity prices and meter readings. It also leases premises hosting its hardware from a company called Alfa Energy, which is the current owner of the warehouse.
At the same time, Vinnytsiaoblenerho issued a statement stating that the warehouse has never been taken by a cryptocurrency farm. In an investigation with representatives of the regional branch of the National Energy Supervision Agency of Ukraine, its employees also failed to find any signs of electricity theft. The utility emphasizes:
The information about multi-million dollar power theft does not match reality.
MMI Engineering stated that the seized equipment cost about 30 million Ukrainian hryvnia (more than 1 million U.S. dollars) and is now working to retrieve it. The company added that the SBU raid paralyzed its business and its lawyers had filed a formal complaint with the Pechersk District Court and the Kiev Attorney General’s Office.
Suspected crypto mining farm proved to be minting game currency
The Ukrainian entity is owned by Zafar Technology, a company headquartered in the UAE, but did not provide any detailed information about the specific uses of its computer equipment. The Playstation 4 Slims game console and CD were found in the photos released by SBU on June 8. Although they can usually be used to mine cryptocurrencies, many people in Ukraine believe that these consoles are more likely to be used in gaming-related applications.
There is evidence that Vinnytsia’s facility may be a gaming robot farm rather than a crypto mining farm. According to an investigation report by the Ukrainian business portal Delo.ua, the robot farm may have been used for grinding. At that time, game players would use software to perform repetitive tasks in gameplay, reward players with something valuable in specific scenarios, such as gaining experience points or improving character levels. SBU declined to comment on the possible use of the hardware, citing an ongoing investigation.
Delo quoted an unnamed source from the SBU as saying that, according to reports, the Playstation was used in EA Games’ famous football video game series FIFA “pumping robot”. In FIFA’s popular Ultimate Team mode, players can gather a team of favorite players and compete with each other online.
Eurogamer explained that they can spend real money on loot boxes so that they have limited opportunities to obtain high-value cards, or play for a few months to save enough FUT coins, the game currency, to be used in the FIFA auction house. Ukrainian Robot Farm PS4 consoles seem to have been working hard to create accounts with FUT funds, which can then be sold to gamers, most likely on the black market.