Coinhive Users Speak Up After Being Investigated by Japanese Police

The Japanese Police have been cracking down on users of remote mining software apps, such as Coinhive, without their website visitors’ consent. After being investigated and having their property impounded, users are speaking up about the unfairness of the investigation.

Problems with the Investigations and Arrests

The Japanese police have been actively investigating website owners using programs such as Coinhive to mine cryptocurrencies without their site visitors’ consent. Recently, 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, some experts are voicing concerns about how the police handle these cases. Famous Japanese security researcher Dr. Takagi Hiromitsu recently pointed out a few key problems. Firstly, he noted that the police only started investigating Coinhive after antivirus software companies declared Coinhive to be a virus. In addition, most articles about Coinhive in Japan are based on interviews with a major anti-virus firm, Trend Micro. Dr. Takagi explained (loosely translated):

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.

Another problem is that the police in many prefectures are not accustomed to dealing with cybercrime, unlike the Tokyo police. A recent notice posted by the Metropolitan police department warns website operators considering installing mining tools that:

Even in the case of installing on a website operated by himself / herself, there is a possibility of [it] becoming a crime when installing a mining tool without clearly indicating to the viewers that the mining tool is installed.

With just a “possibility” of it being a crime, the police started investigating and making arrests, a Coinhive user who claims to be under investigation told, emphasizing that the police made arrests based solely on their opinion with no clarity of the law.

He elaborated, “People currently being investigated or arrested are primarily those who began using Coinhive since last September” and some have already stopped using the program long before the police started the investigations. “The possibility of Coinhive being a crime wasn’t pointed out until a Nikkei article of Dec 10,” he said.

Furthermore, he explained that 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.” […]

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