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Illegal "Bitcoin Mining" Tied to Suffolk Cyber Attack

By Chris O’Neill

An illegal Bitcoin mining operation allegedly run by Christopher Naples, former IT assistant manager in the Suffolk County Clerk’s Office, might have contributed to an expensive cyber attack on the county last year.

Cybersecurity experts said the mining could have opened up the county’s system to a ransomware attack.

A hacker group known as Black Cat found a vulnerability with a logging tool called Log4j and were able to enter the county systems just two months after Naples’s arrest. The hackers were inside the systems for about eight months.

The county clerk, health and sheriff’s domains were accessed, 139 systems were compromised and 71 were encrypted with ransomware. The attack cost Suffolk at least $5.4 million - $3.4 million on restoration and $2 million in investigation. During the attack the personal information of hundreds of thousands of residents was stolen and leaked.

Naples is accused of engaging in Bitcoin mining - using government office space, computers and electricity - from 2017 to his arrest in 2021. He was charged with grand larceny in the third degree, public corruption and computer trespass. Nolan has pleaded non-guilty and the case is still pending.

Bitcoin is a form of crypto-currency based on a blockchain – which is a series of data points linked together. Each block in the chain is encrypted using a very complex and secure algorithm. When someone proves that the encryption was done right, a block is added to the chain. This is called ‘proof of work’ and the reward is a bitcoin.

Successful ‘mining’ requires powerful computing and lots of electricity. The price of one bitcoin during Naples’s period was between $30,000 and$ 40,000.

At the time of his arrest, 46 ‘mining’ machines were found in the County - that were using so much electricity that after their removal the temperature in the office fell by 20 degrees.

According to court records, a forensic auditor calculated that Naples used at least $6,477 in electricity from Suffolk County to run the equipment.

Fellow employees were supposedly aware of what was going on, but feared speaking out.


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