Tech 3 July 2018Dennis Wafula
Japanese man faces jail time over illegal remote mining charge
For the first time, a court in Japan has sentenced a man to prison over charges of illegally using a remote mining tool to mine cryptocurrencies through other people’s computers without their consent, Japanese media reported.
On Monday, the Sendai District Court sentenced a 28-year-old resident of Amagasaki, Hyogo, to one year in jail, with sentence suspended for three years. The court order was considered to be the first of its kind in the country, according to the Kahoku Shimpo news outlet.
Court documents showed the man “embedded a mining program into a tool that advances online games advantageously, in January-February, without justifiable grounds, released it on his blog, downloaded it to another person’s computer, and started mining,” the report noted. The mining tool was downloaded at least 90 times, and the man reportedly received JPY5,000 worth of cryptocurrency as reward. The Japanese news outlet did not mention which type of remote mining tool was used.
Although this is the first case of a crypto miner been sent to jail for illegal remote mining, it is not the first case of the offence. In a similar crime, a Japanese freelance designer from Kanagawa prefecture South Tokyo was fined JPY100,000 (~$900) after he allegedly set up websites that installed Coinhive on visitors’ computers without their knowledge. Coinhive, an in-browser for Monero mining program, has seen a rise in misuse in recent times. Authorities said criminals embed the program in sites to mine cryptocurrencies illegally using people’s computers.
According to Japanese laws, the use of the Coinhive program is a violation of the law banning the use of computer viruses. The Japanese police have been investigating its use and have arrested several people on suspicion of using the program. Similarly, 16 people have been arrested for using the program to tap into their website users’ CPU power to mine crypto.
As police continued its crackdown on the use of Coinhive program, many of its users cried foul over how police have been mishandling them. Security researcher Dr. Takagi Hiromitsu previously weighed in on Coinhive program, pointing out two critical issues: First, he argued that the arrests have been made by prefecture police who are inexperienced in handling cybercrime issues. Unlike their counterparts in Tokyo, they may lack the capacity to handle such cases well, he said.
Secondly, Hiromitsu said the police only began their investigations on Coinhive program after it was declared a virus by an antivirus firm. He noted that the false labeling made by big antivirus firms like Trend Micro subjected Coinhive and its users to unfair scrutiny. As police are led into believing it is a virus, they arrest users on the presumption of violating Japanese laws.
Hiromitsu said antivirus software firms like Trend Micro “are profitable enough to threaten people,” noting that, “In this way, it encourages everything as a cyber crime and advertises its own products.”
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