New Bitcoins are generated through “mining” — a process that takes time and a lot of CPU power. As more Bitcoins are generated, the network self-regulates, producing fewer coins over time, and making it less likely a solo computer will complete the “blocks” that reward the user with new Bitcoins.
The unnamed employee, a part of the ABC’s IT department, had installed the miner on the ABC’s servers to make use of idle CPU power. Nobody at the ABC would comment on the issue, though the Herald quotes communications head Sandy Culkoff saying that “there is a serious misconduct case underway in relation to this matter.”
Bitcoins can be traded for cash, with the currency having reached highs of around US$20 per coin. I’m sure the consequences the unnamed employee now faces for using company equipment for personal gain aren’t going to be worth the effort.
Bitcoin hasn’t had a great month. Half a million US dollars worth of Bitcoins were stolen from an early adopter, the most popular Bitcoin exchange was hacked and prices temporarily flatlined shortly after, U.S. senators pushed a crackdown on the currency and, to add insult to injury, the EFF (who lent the currency some of its earlier legitimacy) have stopped taking donations in Bitcoins and say they won’t even make use of the sizeable number of Bitcoins they’ve already been sent.