For most people, a ransomware infection is not a huge tragedy: they pay the bogus fine (or not), and ultimately get their computer back either because the criminals unlock it or because they clean up the machine themselves.
But for 17-year-old UK schoolboy Joseph Edwards it was the end of the world. The autistic youngster had his computer blocked by the malware downloaded from an email containing a bogus Cheshire Police notice, which said that he visited illegal websites and downloaded images and that he has to pay a £100 fine or risk being prosecuted.
The Telegraph reports that his developmental disorder apparently made him believe this poor attempt at blackmail and panic, and in his distressed state he chose to end his life by hanging himself in the family home.
This unfortunate incident happened in August 2014, and recently a Facebook page has been set up in order to raise awareness about this type of scams.
“These emails are sent on headed paper from Police Authorities on both a National and Global basis. This message was designed to look extremely convincing due to the official Police headed paper,” the page says.
This is not the first time that a ransomware scam resulted in the loss of life.
In April 2014, a Romanian man hung himself and his 4-year-old son, after leaving a suicide note that said he received a police warning to pay 70.000 lei (around 15,000 euros) or go to jail for 11 years.
The notice was fake – he apparently picked up a strain of police ransomware while he browsed adult websites – but was enough to convince him that his life was over.
If there is one thing these two unhappy examples prove, is that spreading the word about this type of scams could save lives.