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Rutland Police bust datacentre cannabis ring

Clouds emanating from a datacentre were not just due to networked computing, Rutland police have said after a joint operation with tech experts
Written by Rupert Goodwins, Contributor

Rutland Police have announced they have broken up the county's biggest-ever cannabis factory, following a dawn raid on the premises of a major datacentre.

"More than 2,000 plants and 50 kilos of dried cannabis bush were seized," detective inspector Pete Roach said in a statement on Friday. "It seems the legitimate business of the company was being used as a highly successful smokescreen for the real operation."

Cannibis factory datacentre

The datacentre was being used as a "dual-use skunk works".

Speaking on condition of anonymity, a technical specialist of the British Computer Society (BCS), which had helped police on the joint operation, said he was amazed by the sophistication of the outfit.

"There wasn't a single punched card reader in the place," he said. "It seems as if datacentres are the ideal cover. They use lots of power, generate lots of heat, are highly secure, have powerful air filtration and plenty of room."

"Network operatives always act a bit stoned anyway, so they evaded suspicion for years," the specialist added.

According to sources, the entire computational and networking resources of the centre, run by Greenleef Cloud Services, were provided by two racks of ARM processors running integrated Linux. Failover online routing was provisioned by a pair of D-Link routers sourced from eBay.

The rest of the 10,000-square-foot installation was filled with racks with fake fronts, behind which hydroponic systems with solid-state lighting had been installed.

"The curious thing was that most of the legitimate customers seemed satisfied by the quality of the provisioning. We do wonder how many of those huge datacentres set up by the curiously profitable cloud companies in the US are dual-use skunk works," the specialist said.

We knew the datacentre ran on open source, so we didn't think anything of it.
– Laura Michaels, neighbour

Greenleef Cloud Services had previously won several awards for its environmental engineering and the high quality of its air conditioning and renewable power usage.

"We did notice a funny smell on occasion," neighbour Laura Michaels told Rutland Weekend Television reporters. "We knew the datacentre ran on open source, so we didn't think anything of it."

Five people are being held in custody. A penguin found on site was questioned, but released on police bail pending further investigation.

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