I don’t know whether to laugh or cry.
Remember our discussion last week about Apple’s collision with the seamier side of the Internet? We talked about the fact that “ransomware” was beginning to show up on Apple’s computers, and specifically mentioned a piece of software that informs the computer owner that child pornography has been detected on the computer and that a fine must be paid to the FBI to avoid a criminal investigation.
According to the police in Prince William County Virginia, a resident of the county got the warning message while he was, in fact, looking at child pornography. Apparently he is in other respects a law-abiding citizen, as he promptly packed up his computer and took it to the local police station, where he asked if there were any warrants on file for his arrest. (Just to be clear here, I’m not suggesting that the man in question was using an Apple computer. Similar ransomware has been around in the Windows world for years, and there’s nothing in the police report that indicates what OS he was using.)
Of course there were no warrants, but the police were quite interested in the contents of the computer, and the subsequent search turned up “inappropriate messages and photos of underage girls”; at least one has been identified–a thirteen year old girl in Minnesota. On that basis, the police obtained a search warrant for his home and seized “computers and other electronic devices”. He is now being held without bail on charges of “possession of child pornography”, “using a communication device to solicit certain offenses involving children”, and “indecent liberties with a minor”.
I have this mental image of the guy standing there in the police station saying “Why are you arresting me? It said I could just pay a fine!”
I suppose the police’s forensic investigation tools bypassed the ransomware, but perhaps not. I’d be interested to see how they worded the expense report if they had to pay the ransom to get to the man’s data. Heck, maybe the ransomware author should get the payment as a reward for, in effect, turning the guy in.
Back to the original dilemma. Do we laugh at this guy’s gullibility, or do we cry over the fact that you apparently need no brain at all to convince children to send you inappropriate pictures of themselves? Kudos to the police for not making their press release into a cry for more legislation, but instead reminding parents to actively monitor their children’s Internet usage.