A man found guilty of using Coinhive’s cryptojacking script to mine Monero on users’ PCs while they surfed the internet has been acquitted by Japan’s Supreme Court on the grounds that crypto-mining software is not malware.
The Tokyo Supreme Court ruled against the defendant, 34-year-old Seiya Moroi, on charges of keeping electromagnetic recordings of an unfair program. That unfair program was Coinhive, a “cryptojacking” script that mines for Monero by pinching a few CPU cycles when users visit a webpage containing the code. Moroi ran the code on his website.
Moroi sent to a website promoting its UX and UI design business to offer its side of the story, including the reference to Chapter XIX-2 of the Japanese Criminal Code:
He also argued that he was revealing Coinhive’s presence, so not acting deceptively. Moroi had no intention of profiting from his efforts either – he just wanted to keep up with tech trends.
He also argued that his efforts didn’t actually bring in any money; The script brought in less than 1,000 yen ($8.79) — a sum so paltry it was hard to withdraw from Monero.
This experience was typical. In 2018, researchers found that cryptojacking brought in just $5.80 per day on average.
Moroi’s post, which is quite a screed, reveals that he could have paid a 100,000 yen ($880) fine in February 2020 but instead chose to fight on that hilltop on principle.
The judges advise on their decision Are defined [PDF] malicious software as a program that “behaves differently than an ordinary user would recognize and is unacceptable from the perspective of maintaining the social functions of a personal computer”.
“The mining itself, which is the content of the behavior of this code, is work to ensure the reliability of a temporary currency and it is difficult to say that it is not socially unacceptable,” the judges wrote.
The fact that no user PCs were affected also convinced the jury.
The Japanese authorities did not like the decision.
“It is unfortunate that the prosecutor’s allegation was not accepted, but since it is a Supreme Court ruling, I will take it seriously,” Chief Prosecutor Seiji Yoshida said.
The case seems to have survived Coinhive itself – the tool was discontinued in March 2019 because the company says it is no longer economical.
By the way, crypto mining is something the reg would never do… more than once a year. ®