Japanese news media sources reported earlier this week that a man has been sentenced to a year in prison, with a three-year sentencing suspension. His crime? Employing ‘cryptojacking’ malware–a piece of software that infects the computers of unsuspecting internet users and uses their CPU to mine cryptocurrency without their consent. The sentencing is the first of its kind in Japan; no one has been given jail time for cryptojacking in the past.
Nikkei reported that the Sendai District Court handed out the sentence to the 24-year-old perpetrator on July 2. He was not named but was described as an unemployed resident of the city of Amagasaki. News.Bitcoin.com reported that a source familiar with the matter explained that this particular case involved a piece of cryptojacking malware known as CoinHive; the man installed CoinHive in a cheating tool for online gaming.
The Perpetrator Installed CoinHive in an Online Gaming ‘Cheat Tool’
Local news source Kahoku reported that “according to the judgment, he 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.”
While this case was the first that resulted in prosecution, there may be more sentences handed out in the near future. Bitcoin.com said that multiple other reports have revealed the arrests of at least three other individuals suspected of operating cryptojacking malware; 16 in total were identified as suspects.
Notable security researcher Dr. Takagi Hiromitsu believes that the case doesn’t have as much to do with what the malware was actually doing so much as it does with where the malware was situated: “this case was not [about] CoinHive on the web but a cheat tool of an online game,” he said to News.bitcoin.com.
The Crime May Have Had More to Do With the Context than the Act Itself
Indeed, lawyer Takashi Hirano also thinks “that there are major differences in the legal configuration between using Coinhive on one’s website and embedding CoinHive in one’s cheat tool.” This is because cheat tools are often illegal in Japan because of Japan’s Unfair Competition Prevention Law.
Hirano recently represented another client who was merely fined $909 for installing CoinHive on a website that he owned and using it to force visitors to unknowingly mine crypto.
Cryptojacking malware has become an increasingly common form of crime in the crypto space. To protect yourself from getting cryptojacked, ensure that your antivirus software is up-to-date and avoid visiting websites that facilitate illegal activities, like watching copyrighted videos.