Japanese Police are currently starting a crackdown on the illegal use of personal computers for cryptocurrency mining. Multiple prefectural police departments have begun investigating one particular case and pursuing charges, which would make it the very first criminal case in Japan where computers were used for illegally mining cryptocurrencies.
According to local news outlet Mainichi, an investigation is currently underway over the hijacking os personal computers to use in ming activities.
The news outlet reported that according to investigative resources, people involved in the case set up websites in the fall of 2017, to use in installing a mining program on viewer’s computers, enabling their use in mining for Monero.
The report continues, saying:
“If police press charges, it will be the first case in Japan where illegal use of computers in cryptocurrency mining would become a criminal case. The incident is being pursued jointly by multiple prefectural police departments including those in Kanagawa, Chiba, and Tochigi in central Japan.”
Three suspects are currently being investigated in relation to the case. The three are suspected of using a web browser-based mining program, Coinhive, to mine crypto using website visitors’ computers. Coinhive, which is available online, allows website owners to mine cryptocurrencies using the processing power of their visitors’ computers.
Renown internet security firm Trend Micro recently revealed that it had found 181,376 terminals running mining software from January through March this year in Japan, adding that this is a huge increase from 767 in the same period a year ago.
Not all instances of the use of Coinhive are malicious, however. UNICEF Australia recently launched a website that allowed visitors to donate computing power to mine cryptocurrency using Authedmine, an opt-in version of Coinhive’s API. Last February, Salon also gave visitors an opt-in option to mine crypto instead of viewing ads on their website.
Coinhive use has been growing steadily due to ease of use and profitability. In research published last March, Cyren Security Labs found that domains with mining scripts rose in number by 725%. In October last year, AdGuard published a study showing that over half a billion people had been mining crypto without their knowledge via Coinhive or via a similar app called Jsecoin.
Japanese investigators are pursuing the case criminally because the installation of the mining software was done without consent. The Mainichi goes into further detail, saying that:
“Police do not intend to press charges over websites that clearly say they are placing mining software on visitors’ computers.”
Police investigators said that they will only press charges against websites “without clear notices about mining because they judged that users remain in the dark about the use of their computer power, users often can deny ad distribution to their computers,” Mainichi continues.
The Yokohama Summary Court has already ordered a person to pay 100000 Yen or about $906 USD for the illegal storage of a computer virus. The defendant, however, appealed the ruling, arguing that what he had was not a virus as it used a method similar to methods used in distributing online advertisements. The case is set to go to trial at the Yokohama District Court.