Japanese district court exonerates man for using Coinhive to mine cryptocurrency

On 27 March, a Japanese District court exonerated a man for installing a mining program in users’ computers without their consent, according to a report by Japanese news portal, The Mainchi. The report identified the man in question to be a 31-year-old website designer, who was charged for “illicitly operating computer software,” between October and November 2017. This was a result of using his website for embedding a program that mined cryptocurrency from the visitors’ computer.

The program under spotlight is Coinhive, a cryptocurrency mining service which relies on a code that is designed to be installed on websites. This uses part or all of the computing power, allowing cryptojackers to mine Monero [XMR]. It is the thirteenth largest cryptocurrency by market cap and a leading privacy coin.

The report stated,

“The Yokohama District Court ruled that it would be “excessive” to punish the 31-year-old website designer […] saying that the program could not be considered a computer virus.”

Toshihiro Homma, the Presiding Judge of the Yokohama District Court, stated that the cryptojacker’s action cannot be classified as a crime as embedding the program was not deemed “socially unacceptable.”

Additionally, prosecutors reportedly “sought a fine” of $900 on the basis that the cryptojacker used the program on victims’ computers, without any authorization. It further stated that visitors were completely unaware that their computers were used for mining, thereby resulting in higher electricity costs.

However, this charge was dismissed as the Coinhive program was not used to “damage” users’ personal computers or leak their personal information. The ruling recognized that the program had an impact on visitors, but claimed it to be “minor.” Further, the ruling will be studied by the Yokohama District Public Prosecutors Office.

The website designer said,

“The house search and interrogations were troublesome […] My job is related to the Internet and I want to raise awareness about this ruling among users.”

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