In an investigation case that might lead to criminal prosecution, Japanese police have filed charges against the defendants for installing a mining program without consent from the users. The mining program in question is Coinhive. The case is set to proceed to a fully fledged trial at the Yokohama District Court.
One of the defendants has already been ordered to pay the equivalent of $900 by the Yokohama Summary Court for ‘illegally storing a computer virus’. However, lawyer Takashi Hirano, who represents the defendant, fully intends to fight out a legal case, saying “It’s not right that only Coinhive is painted as the bad guy”, reports Mainchi, a Japanese news daily.
This is a case revolving around the law already in place that bans the use of computer viruses/malware. The mining programs were installed onto the victim’s computers without their consent when they visited websites that contain, embedded into them, the Coinhive software. It forces the computer browsing this site to mine Monero for as long as the user is browsing the site.
The Coinhive software gets to keep 30% of all Monero cryptocurrency mined using the software. The software coding embedded into web pages also contain a cryptographic key that ties them to a user account, to which the other 70% of the mined Monero goes. When the code is found and reported to Coinhive, they invalidate this key, but that does not mean mining ceases – it only means 100% of mined Monero goes to Coinhive.
Coinhive has a variety of legitimate use cases, one of the more heartwarming stories being how UNICEF placed this program on their donation list. If visitors agree to the use of their computer power by Coinhive, profits from mining go to UNICEF. Yet it has been found to pop up in quite unexpected places, with one Starbucks in Buenos Aires having Coinhive embedded into all the web pages served by its WiFi hotspot.
This is not the first legal case where malware has been intentionally wormed into an unsuspecting browsing computer, but this is the first case on trial in Japan, and is being termed the ‘first cryptojacking criminal persecution’.