Does stealing “Crypto wallet” passwords really constitute theft?

Does stealing the password of another person’s virtual currency “digital wallet” constitute a crime of theft?

Since virtual currencies such as BTC have greater economic value, the theft of virtual currencies also occurs from time to time in practice. So, does stealing the password of another person’s virtual currency “wallet” constitute a crime of theft? This issue is controversial in both theoretical and practical circles. On the one hand, the purpose of the perpetrator stealing another person’s virtual currency “wallet” is to steal someone else’s virtual currency with certain property attributes, which meets the constitutional requirements of the theft to a certain extent; on the other hand, the virtual currency “wallet” password itself belongs to a computer information system Data does not have value in itself. From this consideration, it also meets the constitutive requirements of the crime of illegal intrusion into computer information systems.

So, how do the practitioners view this type of crime? Today, Sister Sa’s team will share a real case for you to analyze how the theft of other people’s virtual currency “wallet” passwords is handled in judicial practice, and hope to provide readers with some new thinking and new ideas.

Crime of Tian Mou Illegal Obtaining Data from Computer Information System

(Case No: (2020) Ji 1102 Xingchu No. 500)

In August 2019, because the victim Liu was preparing to make a ” Bitcoin ” investment, he was introduced by a friend to meet the defendant Tian, ​​who had invested in “TEdacoin”. That month, Tian helped Liu buy 35 “Bitcoins” with an investment of more than 2.57 million yuan, and downloaded “Bitpie Wallet” and “imtohen Wallet” on Liu’s mobile phone to store “Bitcoins”. During this operation, Tian obtained 12 English mnemonics and login passwords to open the aforementioned “wallet”.

In October 2019, the defendant Tian used the mnemonic phrase and login password he had mastered to entrust a netizen surnamed Liu to enter the computer system to operate and transfer the 35 “bitcoins” in Liu’s “wallet” to his own “bit coin”. “Special Purse” and sold 9 of them, and the stolen money was used for personal home consumption.

The court held that the defendant Tian violated national regulations and illegally invaded another person’s computer information system to obtain data stored in the information system. The circumstances were particularly serious, and his behavior constituted the crime of illegally obtaining computer information system data.

Does stealing "Crypto wallet" passwords really constitute theft?

Can Tian’s behavior constitute the crime of theft?

According to the “Criminal Law of the People’s Republic of China”, the crime of theft refers to the theft of public and private property, the amount of which is relatively large, or the acts of multiple theft, theft in the house, theft with a weapon, or pickpocketing.

At first glance, Tian’s behavior constituted the crime of theft. Tian has stolen the password of another person’s virtual currency “wallet” for the purpose of illegally occupying other people’s property, and according to the market value of Bitcoin in October 2019 at the time of the case, it has long exceeded the “large amount” standard. Bitcoin itself has property attributes, and the “wallet” password is the key to possessing, using, and disposing of Bitcoin. To a certain extent, the Bitcoin wallet password can be closely linked to the virtual currency itself. If it can be considered that the wallet “password” and virtual currency Itself da. Therefore, from this perspective, Tian’s behavior can constitute a crime of theft.

But we also noticed that what Tian stole was the login password of other people’s virtual currency “wallet” instead of directly stealing the bitcoin in the wallet. The password itself has no value and should belong to the computer information system data . Therefore, Tian Mou this It may also constitute the crime of illegally obtaining computer information system data as stipulated in Article 285 of the Criminal Law.

It is more appropriate to evaluate the crime of illegally obtaining computer information system data

The criminal constitution of the crime of illegally obtaining computer information system data is stipulated in Article 258 of the “Criminal Law” and the judicial interpretation “Interpretation on Several Issues Concerning the Application of Law in the Handling of Criminal Cases Endangering the Security of Computer Information Systems”. The specific stipulations are as follows: Article 258 of the Criminal Law, the crime of illegally obtaining computer information system data refers to: violating national regulations, intruding into computer information systems other than computer information systems in the field of national affairs, national defense construction, and cutting-edge science and technology, or using other technical means to obtain the computer Data stored, processed, or transmitted in the information system, or the act of illegally controlling the computer information system.

We believe that because digital currency has exchange value, but there are disputes about whether its attribute is property, data or other, the theft of digital currency will involve the crime of theft and illegal intrusion into computer information systems. There are practical cases that determine that mainstream currencies such as Bitcoin and Ethereum are special virtual goods, which belong to the criminal law and are also data. Therefore, the theft of the corresponding virtual currency will also violate the crime of theft and illegally obtain computer information system data and illegal control. Computer information system crimes, according to the rules of imaginary coincidence, choose one felony and sentence ; there are also practical cases based on the principle of crime and punishment to avoid excessive punishment, or to avoid the seizure, seizure, return of stolen goods after virtual currency is identified as property Considering that the problem is difficult to solve, only the act of stealing virtual currency is considered to constitute the crime of illegally obtaining computer information system data and illegally controlling computer information system.

Write at the end

In criminal justice practice, conviction determines sentencing. How the criminal law evaluates an individual’s behavior determines whether it should be punished, and whether the punishment is more severe. Therefore, we have to comprehensively consider the social harm, legal interest infringement, punishability, subjective malignancy, and ultimately the actual damage caused by the nature of individual behavior. Due to the wide variety of virtual currencies and the extreme fluctuations in market prices, the principle of adapting crimes, responsibilities, and punishments should be followed in the process of determining crimes, with caution, in order to comply with the basic spirit of the criminal law for the protection of human rights.

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