Authorities in several countries have been cracking down on cryptocurrency mining operations lately, largely to keep a check on the theft of electricity by such rigs. One such case came to light earlier this month as Ukraine's Security Service (SBU) claimed to shut down a cryptocurrency mining operation. Though unlike top-end computers usually preferred for crypto mining, the operation involved thousands of PlayStation 4 consoles.
The peculiar case has since been in limelight, puzzling many as to why the operators used PS4 consoles instead of PCs for mining cryptocurrency. Some new reports now indicate that instead of cryptocurrency, the consoles were in fact being used for mining valuable in-game currency in EA Sports FIFA.
During the bust, around 3,800 PS4 consoles were found to be used in the mining operation in Ukraine. A local publication Delo.ua, as spotted by Motherboard, now reports that the consoles were in fact farming items for FIFA 21's Ultimate Team mode.
Citing unnamed SBU sources, the report mentions that the consoles were modified to use bots that play the game automatically. The continuous gameplay helped the operators generate in-game currency. These currencies or the accounts containing them were then sold to buyers in the black market.
For those unaware, the Ultimate Team mode in FIFA is the primary earning mode for the game's developer EA Sports. The mode lets players purchase professional soccer players for their teams and compete against others in online matches. These players can be purchased in the form of cards through real money or by using the in-game currency generated while playing.
Rare Ultimate Team cards, however, are very difficult to obtain due to the slot machine-like format of the game. The appeal of gaining a rare card often leads to repeated spending on the game mode by FIFA players.
It is thus, easy to see how such operations selling players the card of their choice are easy money-making opportunities for illegal traders. The farming rig in Ukraine was likely trying to mint money by taking advantage of this.
However, there has been no official confirmation of the practice being conducted through the PS4 mining rig. The kind of operations being carried out at the warehouse is yet to be officially announced. Though as indicated, it is more likely that the PS4s were farming FIFA valuables instead of cryptocurrencies.
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