Recently, it was reported that Japanese police from 10 prefectures have arrested website operators using Coinhive to tap into the computer power of their site visitors to mine cryptocurrencies without consent. They are accused of violating the law banning the use of computer viruses. After being investigated and having their property impounded, users are speaking up about the unfairness of the investigation.
Japanese authorities have been cracking down on the illegal use of personal computers for cryptocurrency mining. The police from 10 prefectures reportedly caught 16 people using such programs; three were arrested while the others had their information sent to the prosecutors.
However, many prominent experts on this field like Japanese security researcher Dr. Takagi Hiromitsu are voicing concerns about how the police handle these cases. He noted that the police only started investigating Coinhive after antivirus software companies declared Coinhive to be a virus. Additionally, most articles about Coinhive in Japan are based on interviews with a major anti-virus firm.
“It’s a simple story, antivirus software dealers are profitable enough to threaten people. In this way, it encourages everything as a cyber crime and advertises its own products.”
A Coinhive user who was under investigation emphasized that the police made arrests based solely on their opinion with no clarity of the law.
The Japanese media coverage is often one-sided, painting a picture of Coinhive based on the police’s interpretation.
“Some Japanese television and newspapers don’t understand what the problem is.”
The case of Moro-san
Moro-san, a Japanese freelance designer who previously used Coinhive on his website, shared his story and experience in dealing with the Kanagawa prefectural police. He used Coinhive on his website from September to November last year.
Three months later, in early February, he received a call from the police while at work in Shibuya. They showed him a search warrant and started searching his house. Other than the charge of violating a law that bans the deployment of computer viruses, they did not offer any other explanations.
In early March, Moro-san was interrogated again at the Kanagawa prefecture police station. The police asked him about his usage of Coinhive, took his fingerprints and measurements. In late March, Moro-san was briefly interrogated at the Public Prosecutors Office and was fined 100,000 yen (~US$909).
“I’m exhausted both mentally and physically at this point, I let myself go with the flow,”