Senseless tragedy struck in the Romanian commune of Movila Miresii when Marcel Datcu took a distressing but wholly impersonal malware threat at face value, killing himself and his four-year-old son, Nicusor, in a misguided attempt to avoid prison and spare his boy shame.
Datcu had apparently visited a number of adult websites and thereby exposed his computer to infection by ransomware, a set of tools used by cybercriminals to lock down a device and extort the user for a cash payout, often while posing as law enforcement. Such insidious tactics have been popular of late, and are nowhere more prevalent than in Eastern Europe and Russia.
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As with a scam designed to convince people that “PRISM” had found child porn on their hard drives, Datcu was informed that he’d have to cough up 70,000 Romanian lei (more than $21,000) or go to jail for 11 years. “I don't think it's normal what I've done,” he wrote in a suicide note to his wife. “I apologize to all of you… I don't want Nicusor to suffer because of me… I can't stand going to prison. I can't.” He and Nicusor were found hanging in the family’s living room.
The amount of the so-called fine mentioned in Datcu’s letter is itself unusual. As the International Business Times noted, a sum of a few hundred dollars is more commonly demanded, since it betters the odds that the money will come through. Perhaps if Datcu could have afforded the larger amount, or had been asked for a smaller one, two lives might have been spared.
Just another heartbreaking hypothetical in a case that’s full of nothing but.