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British Government Employee Caught Mining Litecoin at Nuclear Lab

2 mins
Updated by Geraint Price
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In Brief

  • British civil servant resigned after mining crypto on government property during pandemic.
  • Karl Beacham mined Litecoin between December 2019 and June 2020.
  • Beacham claimed management rescinded earlier approval to mine at nuclear research facility.
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A British civil servant resigned after being caught illegally mining Litecoin at a nuclear research facility during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Karl Beacham stepped down after it was found he mined Litecoin between December 2019 and June 2020.

The inquiry started after the UK Atomic Energy Authority’s (UKAEA) chief operating officer received an anonymous tip of mining taking place on government property. 

Engineer Said Bosses Approved of Litecoin Mining

Beacham reportedly started mining Litecoin in December 2019, but shut down the machine shortly after workers returned following the 2020 COVID-19 lockdown.

Beacham had worked at the facility for several years as a contractor and later as a full-time staff member of the UK Atomic Energy Authority (UKAEA). He worked at the Culham Center for Fusion Energy, which leads on nuclear energy research.

Beacham claimed management rescinded an earlier approval to allow mining on government property.

The agency contracted his mechanical engineering skills for several years before employing him. The tribunal hearing the case said the UKAEA would have likely retained him if he had seen the hearing through.

It is not clear how many Litecoin Beacham mined.

His resignation comes as the UK government tries to alleviate the cost-of-living with stimulus checks. Annual inflation rose 7.9% in May 2023, notably more than the US.

Crypto Mining Can Prove a Lifeline to Many

Citizens in countries with runaway inflation often risk acquiring crypto, sometimes illegally, to survive. Mining can be a lifeline to access Bitcoin in the absence of access to a liquid market.

British prime minister Rishi Sunak’s attempts to ease households’ financial burden is only covering one-fifth of the average household income in the UK and affords families minimal leeway, the Joseph Rowntree Foundation found. Hot meals and toiletries remain elusive for many families.

According to Johannes Ullrich at the SANS Internet Storm Center, the most telltale sign of mining on government property is the significantly higher energy bill.

New York police arrested Suffolk County clerk’s information technology supervisor Christopher Naples for mining crypto at the Riverhead Center in 2021. The operation burdened the county with $6,000 in electrical costs.

Interested in how to mine cryptocurrency (legally)? Click here for our Learn guide.

Also, as in Beacham’s case, colleagues noticed the noise generated by fans cooling his Litecoin equipment.

The agency may have also failed to detect outbound connections to a mining pool. Most antivirus software blocks connections to mining pools. 

Fewer staff at government departments also make rogue employees mining crypto harder to detect, Ullrich said.

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David Thomas
David Thomas graduated from the University of Kwa-Zulu Natal in Durban, South Africa, with an Honors degree in electronic engineering. He worked as an engineer for eight years, developing software for industrial processes at South African automation specialist Autotronix (Pty) Ltd., mining control systems for AngloGold Ashanti, and consumer products at Inhep Digital Security, a domestic security company wholly owned by Swedish conglomerate Assa Abloy. He has experience writing software in C,...