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Fake police warning leads to murder-suicide: Deaths due to ransomware?

Helping out on the world's largest crowdsourcing project to find MH370 can help you avoid missing jet scams, as sadly some people don't recognize fake threats, like the 'police' ransomware that sparked a murder-suicide.

On Monday, DigitalGlobe, which reportedly has archived over 4.5 billion square kilometers of Earth imagery, said more than 3 million people have helped search for Malaysia Airlines Flight 370, via Tomnod. It's likely the "largest crowdsourcing project of its kind." There's been more than 257 million map views and over 2.9 areas tagged as either "oil slick," "wreckage," "raft," or "other." Compare that to March 12, when DigitalGlobe reported that 2 million people had "tagged some 645,000 features."

Tomnod adds more DigitalGlobe images daily, making the search area larger than the last report of about 9,000 square miles (24,000 square kilometers). There are so many participants trying to help that you might occasionally get a "something's not quite right" error that apologizes for Tomnod technical difficulties before adding, "We're poking our servers with pointy sticks to figure out what's wrong."

But don't let that stop you from helping. AFP reported, "A study released last week found volunteer counters who examined NASA lunar images did just as well in identifying individual craters as scientists with five to 50 years of experience."

In fact, it might be better to search satellite imagery than to run a keyword search for news of the missing plane, since cybercrooks are exploiting people's desire for more news. Trend Micro warns to be on the lookout for videos purportedly about MH370; the links to the videos are on malicious sites copying the layout of Facebook. It asks users to "share" first before watching the video, but they only lead to survey scams.

Then you've got celebrities like Courtney Love "helping" by using Microsoft Paint on Tomnod to point out the supposed location of MH370. Celebrities are often used as bait in scams, but fake "breaking news" regarding disasters can also contain malware that is "deadly" to your PC...or lead to scareware that might make you think your PC is about to croak.

Murder-suicide deaths due to ransomware?

That takes us to another heartbreaking story and perhaps first case of death due to ransomware. A 36-year-old Romanian man killed himself and his four-year-old son after his PC was infected with "police" ransomware. Sadly, he believed the threat was real. A forensic examiner believed the man was suffering a "personality crisis."

Apparently, Marcel Datcu had been surfing porn when his computer was infected with ransomware, which acted like a message from the police threatening huge fines or jail time. The man killed his son and held the boy in arms when he hung himself. He left a suicide note for his wife and other children that read:

I received a warning [on my computer] that said I have to pay 70.000 lei [$22,000] or go to prison for 11 years... I don't think it's normal what I've done...I apologize to all of you...I don't want Nicusor [his 4-yr-old son] to suffer because of me...I can't stand going to prison. I can't.

That is the highest ransomware fee of which I've ever heard; even the bitcoin ransom for CryptoLocker wasn't that high. Some people give in and pay the ransom, although security experts all advise against paying. It is heartbreaking that someone took the fake police threat so seriously that he committed murder-suicide.

The strain of ransomware is supposedly IcePol and it can issue the "police" ransom in 25 languages. Trojan.Ransom.IcePol can be removed via BitDefender's free removal tool. An infected PC in the U.S. would show a warning as if it were coming from the FBI.

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