Russian security officials arrested a number of scientists working at a secret Russian nuclear weapons facility for allegedly using lab equipment to mine for cryptocurrencies, according to Russia's Interfax News Agency .

The engineers arrested in the incident were working at the All-Russian Research Institute of Experimental Physics (RFNC-VNIIEF). No official criminal charges have been announced and law enforcement has not said how many members of the operation were detained.

Cryptocurrencies Russian nuclear scientists were arrested for mining for cryptocurrencies. Photo: David McBee/Pexels

A spokesperson for the institute told Interfax that the group of scientists attempted to mine for cryptocurrency with “office computing resources”—a violation that put the operations of the lab at risk.

"There has been an unsanctioned attempt to use computer facilities for private purposes including so-called mining," Tatyana Zalesskaya, head of the Institute's press service, said. Zalesskaya also indicated there is a pending criminal case being launched against the engineers.

The All-Russian Research Institute of Experimental Physics has a special place in the history or Russian scientific achievement: it is the sight of the Russian Federation Nuclear Center facility where the Soviet Union's first nuclear bomb was designed.

It is also intended to be kept a secret. The lab is located in the closed city of Sarov, located east of Moscow. The city is fence off and heavily guarded by the Russian military, making it next to impossible for unauthorized personnel to enter.

Not only is the city intended to be cut off from the outside world, but the computers within the research facility are also supposed to be isolated; they are kept disconnected from the internet in order to prevent any outside intrusion or hacking efforts.

That was violated by the engineers who decided to use the supercomputer rigs to mine for cryptocurrency. The scientists attempted to connect to the internet for the effort, which alerted the institute’s security department. The Federal Security Service (FSB) was informed and detained the alleged offenders.

The process of mining for cryptocurrencies requires users to lend their computer processing power to solve complex mathematical equations needed to authenticate transactions across the blockchain—a distributed ledger that keeps track of all sales and purchases of a particular cryptocurrency. Because there is no centralized server, this task is farmed out to hundreds of thousands of devices around the world that work to solve the equations.

When those equations are solved and the transactions are confirmed, coins are released and provided to people who lend their processing power to the process as a reward for helping complete the process.

Mining for cryptocurrency requires a considerable amount of processing power—something the average computer might struggle to provide but a supercomputer designed for work on nuclear weapons surely has the capacity for.