Iran Enlists Its Spies to Hunt Down Power-Hungry Bitcoin Miners

Iran has enlisted intelligence officers in the government’s latest effort to crack down on illegal cryptocurrency miners, as the nation’s power grid struggles to handle rising electricity consumption.

The Ministry of Intelligence helped set up committees across the country to find and seize computer “farms” that mine digital currencies like bitcoin without a license, the semi-official Iranian Students’ News Agency reported, citing Gholamali Rakhshani Mehr, the distribution coordinator at state-run grid operator Tavanir.

Subsidized energy prices make Iran attractive for miners because of the high amounts of power needed to produce some cryptocurrencies. But Tavanir says the surge in demand – alongside rising consumption in other sectors and poor hydro generation – caused a shortfall in electricity supply that forced it to dim streetlights and cut power to office buildings, according to a statement on Thursday.

A key source of intelligence in the government’s crackdown is public whistleblowers who report illegal mining. Tavanir this year doubled the maximum reward for tip-offs to 200 million rials ($873), 7.5 times the minimum monthly wage.

So far this year, authorities have seized hundreds of computers hidden in houses, abandoned garages and industrial units, state media said.

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