A newly constructed Bitcoin mine in Cheyenne, Wyoming, is raising security concerns due to its close proximity to a Microsoft data center and an Air Force base that controls nuclear missiles. According to a confidential report from Microsoft to the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States, the mine could potentially allow the Chinese to conduct intelligence collection operations. The mine, which is linked to at least one Chinese company, is located across the street from a secure Microsoft data center and about a mile away from F.E. Warren Air Force Base.
Chinese-owned or operated Bitcoin mines have been established in at least 12 US states, including Arkansas, Ohio, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Texas, and Wyoming. These mines require vast computing power and consume significant amounts of energy, raising concerns among defense experts that they could be used for spying or coordinated disruptions of the electrical grid. The Cheyenne mine consists of several small buildings filled with powerful computers and became a concern for Microsoft as soon as construction began.
While Microsoft stated that it had no direct indications of malicious activities by the mine, it suggested that the computing power and presence of Chinese nationals in close proximity to the data center and missile base posed significant threat vectors. US government officials have confirmed that they have been tracking the Wyoming operation, and measures have been taken to mitigate potential intelligence collection at the site.
The Cheyenne mining site is linked to five companies with the same Manhattan address. None of these companies have direct ties to the Chinese government or Communist Party, but one of them, Bit Origin Ltd, was a Chinese pork-processing company before becoming involved in Bitcoin mining. The company stated that the site was selected for its favorable agreement with the local electrical utility provider, rather than its proximity to Microsoft or the missile base.
Bitcoin mines are known for their ability to consume vast amounts of electricity and can be switched on or off at a moment’s notice. This feature, combined with the possibility of backdoor attacks, raises concerns among defense experts about their potential impact on the power grid. The ability of these mines to disrupt key energy systems should prompt additional investigation and scrutiny if Chinese infrastructure is found to be involved.
This report comes amid growing concerns about the cybersecurity risks posed by Chinese entities. The Office of the Director of National Intelligence has warned that China is capable of launching cyber attacks that could disrupt critical US infrastructure services. As tensions between the US and China continue to escalate, the potential for cyber attacks and disruptions to critical infrastructure cannot be ignored.