Bitcoin Miners Allegedly Steal $2 Million of Electricity in Malaysia: Report

This file photos from April 22, 2019 shows the high-rise apartments in the Forest City housing project in Malaysia’s southern state of Johor Baru.
This file photos from April 22, 2019 shows the high-rise apartments in the Forest City housing project in Malaysia’s southern state of Johor Baru.
Photo: Roslan Rahman/AFP (Getty Images)

Bitcoin miners in Malaysia have stolen over $2 million worth of electricity since the end of 2020, according to police in the state of Johor Bahru and a new report from the Malay Mail. Police reportedly seized 1,746 bitcoin mining machines this week and have arrested seven men who authorities have claimed are part of a bitcoin mining crime “syndicate.”

The men have allegedly been altering electrical monitoring hardware to make it appear as though their locations were using a lot less electricity than they actually were.

“The police are conducting further investigations to track down the mastermind of the syndicate and other members who are still at large,” Johor police chief Datuk Ayob Khan Mydin Pitchay was quoted as saying at a press conference on Wednesday.

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“Investigators are not ruling out the possibility that the syndicate also has links with syndicates in other states that carry out the same modus operandi used in their bitcoin mining activities,” Ayob Khan said, according to the Mail.

Police estimate that bitcoin miners stole roughly $22 million in electricity in the area during 2020 alone. And while the theft of electricity is obviously a problem, stealing is kind of beside the point from a global perspective. If there’s not a crackdown on energy consumption for cryptocurrency mining, there are very real problems ahead.

Cryptocurrencies require tremendous amounts of energy to mine, with a recent survey estimating that bitcoin mining takes more electricity than the entire country of Argentina. And as long as people are churning through millions of dollars worth of electricity—paid for or not—to produce what is essentially Monopoly money, the entire planet is going to suffer.

Meanwhile, millions of Texans still don’t have power, citizens of Austin are being told to boil their water, and hospitals are being evacuated in the midst of a crisis with no end in sight.

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The future is staring us in the face and humanity simply isn’t ready.

Matt Novak is the editor of Gizmodo's Paleofuture blog

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DISCUSSION

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pedal-force

There’s a lot of things I don’t love about Bitcoin (instability being a big one, it’s useless as a currency if it moves around constantly and goes up so quickly that you have people paying the current equivalent of millions of dollars for a pizza just a few years ago, it’s radically deflationary over the long term, which is the opposite of a currency). That parenthetical got overly long so I’m just going to start a new paragraph for my second clause.

But the electricity usage drives me up a fucking wall. We’re literally killing the planet in order to make a few tech guys rich. We’re turning electricity into money, without even the bare basics of doing some useful work first or making a product or making people’s lives better. We’re not doing a fucking thing except setting the planet on fire to generate numbers in a bitcoin wallet.

It’s insane.