When we reported that the Security Service of Ukraine shut down ‘a cryptocurrency mining farm’ that was stealing power directly from a power plant located nearby and seized tens of CPUs, hundreds of graphics cards, and 3,800 PlayStation 4 Slim game consoles, we knew that something was off since mining on PS4 Slim didn’t exactly seem like a good idea. We were right as apparently the farm was actually used to get rare characters in FIFA 2021.
As pictures from the SSU demonstrated, Sony’s PlayStation 4 Slim game consoles had game discs in them, something you do not need when you want to mine Ethereum or Bitcoin. As it turned out, the game in question was FIFA 21 and the farm was used to earn in-game currency and/or get rare characters. The farm operators could then sell these accounts for money, according to Delo.ua (via 3DNews).
Like many other sports games these days, FIFA 21 has an Ultimate Team mode that theoretically allows gamers to build a dream team of players using cards from lootboxes. Lootboxes can be purchased either using in-game currency or for real money. The caveat is that the chance to get a truly powerful character is less than 1%, so it is possible to spend a ton of money and not get a decent player. Meanwhile, obtaining in-game currency takes a lot of time since it requires loads of grinding (performing repetitive tasks).
Grinding is apparently what these PlayStation 4 Slim systems controlled by PCs and a neural network were meant to do to earn in-game currency. Then, the perpetrators could either sell accounts full of in-game currency to people who wished to try their luck and get a rare player by purchasing lootboxes, or try and gain those rare characters themselves in a bid to sell it for a lot of money. Selling in-game currency is hardly too lucrative, but trying to get a rare character is hard. Considering that they had free electricity, even playing a lottery could make financial sense for them.
With 500 graphics cards at their hands and free power, the same farm could mine Ethereum too. Meanwhile, the same 500 graphics cards could control characters in other games to train them, get in-game currency, and/or lootboxes. In any case, it looks like we have seen a pretty diversified operation that could be used both for cryptocurrency mining as well as cultivation of game characters — whichever was more profitable.