Scareware – the latest wheeze

A parent reported a problem with a childs netbook to me. A distraught child had found on booting the machine that it had launched an application which claimed they had visited sites and viewed pornography and that the Metropolitan Police were aware of this behaviour. The user was told that if they entered credit card details they would be able to pay a £100 “fine” – and the police would let the matter drop.

The mental anguish that something like this can visit on a child should not be underestimated. To be accused of actions like this and have no means (which juvenile has access to a credit card) to resolve – can pressurise the situation. So my advice to the parent was to explain that this would likely a piece of software legitimately downloaded which brought with it  an very unwanted gift.

The action of the software was extortion – the authors and distributors of it should be found and prosecuted. We should make it a jailable offence to write software like this and prosecute those who profit from it. We should also educate our children to understand that all the scams that have been used across the years before the internet are alive and well in new guises on the Web. Make sure that they can speak to someone about these cyber problems and not allow the benefits of the web to be destroyed by criminals.

Stay safe out there.