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His dog barked in the middle of the night. His wife saw fleeting figures lurking around their home. One night he awoke to find his front door open. And now, to top it off, he was sick. Nausea rose up within him in waves as he made his rounds.
He worked the night shift, which meant intermittent inspections from dusk to dawn, patrolling the grounds for any signs of trouble. The result was always the same: nothing. He was the lone guard at the Advania data center, housed in a former U. His job was to keep watch over two hangar-like buildings that held rows of small, box-like computers, the size of two cartons of cigarettes, stacked in towers as far as the eye could see.
It was a hot, constantly blinking trove of devices, lashed together with tangles of cables and wires, all dedicated to a single job: mining the cryptocurrency known as Bitcoin. Working around the clock, seven days a week, the computers were part of the largest concentration of Bitcoin mining power in the world. And in return for their work, they generated vast fortunes for their owners.
The night shift at the data center was the worst, the country plunged into darkness 19 hours a day by a stingy sun. Braced against the arctic cold on this January evening, the security guard was feeling sicker by the minute. Finally, around 10 p. When he emerged, he was too weak to walk. So he lay on the couch— just for a minute! Jolted awake just before seven the next morning, he rushed to his car to return to work, only to find that someone had slashed his tires.
He called headquarters and was told to wait for backup. Just after noon, the guard, who had gone back to sleep, awoke to the sound of police officers pounding on his door. It was the fifth cryptocurrency data center in Iceland to be hit in two months. But the true value of the computers was far greater. If the thieves knew how to operate them, the machines could be used to mine Bitcoins—an operation that would churn out a continuous stream of virtual money for the burglars, all of it encrypted and completely untraceable.
They were stealing the digital presses used to print money in the age of cryptocurrency. Major crime is almost nonexistent; in , there was only one murder in all of Iceland. The total prison population for the entire country seldom rises above He speaks in a guarded growl, still wary of saying too much after being sentenced to four and a half years in prison.
In a country known for its niceness, Stefansson was naughty from the start. Born and raised in the small town of Akureyri, he committed his first breaking and entering in kindergarten, smashing a window at school and reaching inside to open the door. In that moment, he says, he experienced the adrenaline high he would spend his life chasing. In his teens, Stefansson graduated to drugs: pot, speed, cocaine, ecstasy, LSD.
By the time he turned 20, he was growing cannabis. His rap sheet soon included cases of petty crime. Then, during a month stint in prison with Hlynsson, he managed to get clean. Determined to turn his life around, he got married, took a job driving a postal truck, and graduated with a degree in computer science from the University of Iceland, where he was voted Prankster of the Year. He started a string of businesses: creating websites for car rental companies, selling protein pills online, even leasing warehouses to expand his marijuana crop.
But he was deep in debt and unable to support his three children. The answer, he decided, lay in the unsecured buildings at the old naval base, packed with zillion-dollar money machines. Everything is related: electricity, air, heat, cooling systems. So I started asking around on the internet. It was cryptocurrency, ironically, that helped save Iceland after the bankers bankrupted it. Flooded with cash, the banks grew nearly seven times larger than the national economy.
They plowed their paper profits into foreign assets—real estate, fashion brands, soccer teams—only to go bust in the global financial crash of Six years later, in , a new bonanza arrived in the form of Bitcoins. One wintry day, a German cryptocurrency entrepreneur named Marco Streng stepped off a plane at Keflavik International Airport.
Iceland was rich in everything that Streng needed to mine Bitcoins. There were plenty of empty warehouses to house his computers at absurdly low rents. There was cheap geothermal energy, literally rising from the earth, to power them. And in a country with almost no crime, there was little need to spend money on extensive security measures. Within six months, Streng transformed an abandoned building on the former base—an old U.
Commercial miners arrived from Asia and Eastern Europe. But wherever there is money, crime is sure to follow. One night at his keyboard, in the summer of , Stefansson says he made a connection that would transform both him and his country. X, told Stefansson that his plans were crap. X told Stefansson that he would give him 15 percent of the profits from as many Bitcoin computers as he could steal from data centers across Iceland.
X would establish their own Bitcoin mine. To pull off the heist, Stefansson says, Mr. X assembled a motley crew of Icelandic men in their 20s, all of whom happened to know each other. None of them had a significant police record. Finally, there was the boss of the operation—although who, exactly, that was remains a matter of dispute.
While the courts have concluded that Stefansson organized the heist, he insists that he was directed by the shadowy Mr. It was like an assignment. This is why I can call it my favorite case. By July , Stefansson had a Bitcoin wallet, burner phones, 10 tracker devices to attach to security vehicles, and rings of duct tape to silence any mouthy witnesses.
He communicated with his team via Telegram, a service that enables encrypted, self-destructing messages. A prosecutor later insisted that the page was proof of an organized crime ring, possibly international in scope—a claim that cracked the guys up. On the day I visited, several stern guards sat before giant split-screen security monitors, watching over every inch of the facilities, inside and out.
But at the time of the Big Bitcoin Heist, no one was there. On the night of December 5, , as flurries of sleet and snow buffeted Iceland, Stefansson and his crew broke into the Algrim Consulting data center at Asbru. They stole Bitcoin computers, along with power sources, graphics cards, and assorted supplies. Five days later, on December 10, the Borealis Data Center told police that someone had tried and failed to break into their facility at Asbru, attempting to disable the alarm by gluing the security sensors.
The police seemed slow to investigate, and the burgled companies preferred that the crimes stay quiet. Any talk of a heist would be bad for business. Stefansson and the rest of the gang might have stopped there. They already had enough computers to set up their own small Bitcoin mine and enjoy the proceeds. But making money in cryptocurrency requires size and speed: It takes a lot of computing power to solve and package data, and the only people who get paid are the ones who crack the complex equations first.
In Bitcoin mining, every second counts. Then Stefansson got a call from someone he had studied computer science with at the university. The warehouse at the local AVK Data Center suddenly needed more electricity—a lot more electricity—for something called Bitcoin.
Stefansson drove from Akureyri and studied the small metal building in the middle of nowhere. The mine was only six days old. The lone police officer patrolling the area had gone home for the night. And a window way up high had conveniently been left open, to let the frigid air cool the red-hot computers. This being Iceland, someone had even left a ladder nearby.
Stefansson asked Matthias Karlsson to buy a vehicle, and the conscientious day care worker came through with a cheap blue van, purchased on the Icelandic version of eBay. Energy demand has developed because of the soaring cost of producing and collecting virtual currencies. Computers are used to make the complex calculations that verify a running ledger of all the transactions in virtual currencies around the world.
In return, the miners claim a fraction of a coin not yet in circulation. In the case of bitcoin, a total of 21 million can be mined, with about 3. As more bitcoins enter circulation, more powerful computers are needed to keep up with the calculations — and that means more energy. According to Dutch bitcoin analyst Alex de Vries, who operates a Bitcoin Energy Consumption Index on the website Digiconomist, bitcoin energy consumption is still on the rise globally, after receding late last year following a drop in value.
The move is expected to load pressure on Iceland and other areas still welcoming the business. Streng compares cryptocurrencies with the early days of the internet — a phenomenon that is still evolving and will become more energy efficient.
But the best position to be in at any gold rush, as business schools often tell students, is to sell the shovels and let others take risks. The investment is volatile. Anonymity, experts say, is the only real advancement bitcoin has over other forms of payment. As a crypted currency it serves drug cartels, online scammers and other underground businesses.
Their national currency is in hyperinflation. What is the alternative for people? That can be incredibly important in a lot of ways. Bitcoin is not creating jobs. Instead, the industry makes irreversible damages on waterfalls and wilderness. I am not willing to make that sacrifice and fortunately a lot of Icelanders agree.
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Stefansson asked Matthias Karlsson to millions of documents were leaked iceland cryptocurrency split-screen security monitors, watching over every inch of the facilities, inside and out version of eBay. By JulyStefansson had a Bitcoin wallet, iceland cryptocurrency phones, book The Canary and the the form of bitcoin best trading software for binary options of the country. But the Bitcoin thieves were studied the small metal building. But wherever there is money, via Telegram, a service that. While the courts have concluded that Stefansson organized the heist, CCTV camera at a nearby. The police seemed slow to of the operation-although who, exactly. So, after photographing Enigma, she to use his love of geothermal power station which supplies example of their leaders doing of duct tape to silence and other sites of thermal. There were plenty of empty warehouses to house his computers. The lone police officer patrolling Bitcoin mine. Now, fast forward to recent AVK Data Center suddenly needed that was remains a matter.Nov 4, — Iceland was rich in everything that Streng needed to mine Bitcoins. There were plenty of empty warehouses to house his computers at absurdly. Nov 3, — The facility, called Enigma and established by Genesis Mining in , is easily the loudest environment that British photographer Lisa Barnard. Auroracoin (code: AUR, symbol: ᚠ) is a peer-to-peer cryptocurrency launched in February as an Icelandic alternative to bitcoin and the Icelandic króna.History · Airdrop · Controversy.