- A Bitcoin mine in Wyoming is on the radar of Pentagon officials.
- The mine is connected to multiple Chinese companies and sits across from a Microsoft data center.
- The company said that its placement near the data center, which supports the Pentagon, was unrelated.
Pentagon officials monitoring a Bitcoin operation in Wyoming that sits across from a Microsoft data center and a nearby military base are worried that the owners’ ties to China could pose a national security threat, per The New York Times.
Microsoft believed the location could allow the Chinese government to “pursue full-spectrum intelligence collection operations” directed at the data center and the Francis E. Warren Air Force Base, which houses ICBMs.
The crypto mining operation first came under the US government’s purview after a team at Microsoft submitted a report to the Committee on Foreign Investment in August 2022. The team believed the mining operation had the potential to collect information from the data center, which supports the operational needs of the Pentagon, the Times reported.
“Microsoft has no direct indications of malicious activities by this entity,” Microsoft wrote, per the Times. “However, pending further discovery, we suggest the possibility that the computing power of an industrial-level cryptomining operation, along with the presence of an unidentified number of Chinese nationals in direct proximity to Microsoft’s Data Center and one of three strategic-missile bases in the US, provides significant threat vectors.”
In 2021, China banned the resource-intensive practice of Bitcoin mining. Businesses in the cryptocurrency market scrambled to establish themselves in other countries, including the US.
The Times identified mines in 12 states that were owned by Chinese nationals. Per the outlet, some had ties to the Chinese government, some did not, and others could not be easily traced.
The Cheyenne, Wyoming, center was one such mine, per the Times. The Times reported that the mining operation is linked to five different companies, with one company, Bit Origin Ltd., previously registered as a pork-processing company in the Cayman Islands.
Li Jiaming, the president of Bit Origin Ltd., said that the Microsoft data center or the nearby military base had nothing to do with why the area was chosen. Instead, the mine was placed there because a local utility company agreed to work with Bit Origin.
“Even though we are a Microsoft neighbor and a couple of miles from the base, without power it is nothing — the business cannot succeed,” Jiaming told the Times.
Officials who spoke with the Times cited concerns that the mines, which use an immense amount of electricity in their operations, would be used to purposefully overwhelm electrical grids to cause planned blackouts and complete other cyberattacks.
US officials have expressed growing concern that the Chinese government is attempting to target and disrupt US military operations. In July, the Times reported military officials identified Chinese malware that could disrupt power, water, and communications to military bases.
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