We've talked about ransomware in the past, the process by which criminals pose as either rights holders or law enforcement to convince people that they must pay large sums of money for transgressions in order to avoid serious jail time. Copyright infringers have frequently been targets of these kinds of lies and, more recently, NSA-themed ransomware has begun to appear. While the more savvy internet user may realize that these threats are great big steaming piles of crap that can be cleansed with an antivirus program, more naive folks can understandably have the hell scared out of them and find themselves devulging credit card information.
But we've reached a new level of tragedy when it comes to this kind of criminal endeavor, with one Romanian man reacting to ransomware in the extreme, killing himself and his young son as a result of his machine's infection.
The report of the tragic incident comes from the small Romanian commune of Movila Miresii which is made up of three small villages and located in Brăila County in the east of the country. Local paper Braila24 reports that Marcel Datcu, 36, hanged himself in the living room of his home along with his four-year-old son Nicusor. The report claims a suicide note left to his wife explained that the reason for taking his own life was:
"I received a warning [on my computer] that said I have to pay 70.000 lei [£13,000] or go to prison for 11 years."
Just so we're clear, there is obviously something else going on with this man other than his simply receiving a ransomware infection. To kill yourself is horrific enough, but to take the life of a young child over any amount of money or years in jail is tragic on a level that defies scale. I imagine there is likely a serious mental health issue at hand here, otherwise I'm completely at a loss.
With that said, nobody should pretend for a moment that the acts of malware distributors should be completely absolved in this case. The impersonation of law enforcement and threats of jail time deserve reprecussions on their own, but to have contributed to the mental breakdown of this man, which tangentially contributed to a suicide and a murder, must not go unnoticed. Many of us wave these kinds of attacks off as the cost of doing business when it comes to internet browsing. That isn't enough.
Instead, serious educational efforts should be taken on to inform the public of these kinds of threats. The silence from those that "legitimately" engage in these threats (law enforcement, copyright trolls, etc.) is deafening. Were they smart, they'd be out in front of this story, letting everyone know that they would never engage in such malware infection as a threat tactic. Unfortunately for them, so many stories of their underhanded actions have come out that I'm not entirely sure how many people would trust them.
Still, people need to know the farce that this kind of malware is, lest we let similar tragedies like this one continue to occur.