January 22, 2023. As you have already figured out, it was Sunday - yes an unforgettable day for me. Though for many, it was a holiday, I must say, it ended up being a horror day which left an imprint for the rest of my life. That is why I decided to pen it down to share my experience with all those people who may encounter such a situation once in their entire life.
In the evening around 7-7.30 pm, I was searching for some wallpaper to change my laptop screen in Chrome. While searching through one link after another, I clicked a download link which opened a suspicious page along with a police siren sound. For a moment I got frozen. The page was about the Cyber Crime Unit, Delhi Police asking me to pay Rs 33,500 online by using my credit card. Neither the keyboard was working nor the close button for the page was showing. The words that were mentioned on the page were "your browser has been blocked due to repeated visits to pornographic sites containing materials prohibited by the laws of India namely pornography promoting paedophilia, violence and homosexuality".
It was also mentioned that if I failed to pay the fine to unlock the money, all my data present in the laptop will be permanently deleted. Most importantly, the police will come to my home to arrest me and criminal charges will be filed against me. Also, I will be imprisoned for not more than two years along with a fine of Rs 100,000. Terrifying isn't it? If someone has already faced it, for him/her it may not be new. But everything happens for the first time, for me, it was those 20 minutes when I prayed to all the gods and goddesses I could remember. I don't watch pornography sites, but while downloading films or series most of the time many ads appeared which led me towards different obscene pages. But that evening, I was frightened to death as I couldn't unlock my laptop for 10-20 minutes.
For a moment I thought my laptop got hacked but also one side of me was thinking if I couldn't pay the money the police might come to my house and all the after-effects stuff. As nothing was working regarding the keyboard I closed my laptop once and again opened it, yet the page was still there. I did the same one more time and reopened it. Thankfully, the page disappeared, and my lock screen appeared with the option of shutting down. I shut down my laptop and again restart it. But nothing was there. I checked all my data, documents and emails along with the Chrome browser which they claimed was blocked. Nevertheless, my laptop was working completely fine but the concussion I faced, won't be omitted ever.
In a situation like this, most of the time people panic as they get triggered by the messages they encounter which end up paying the money those hackers asked for. I was also afraid to inform my parents at that moment as it would have concerned them with unnecessary reasons rather I tried to solve it on my own. As the sites also talked about pornographic content I didn't talk about it to either my parents or my friends. Later I only checked on the Google symptoms of hacking a laptop and realized I was in a trap for 20 minutes continuously. Being an over-thinker, I was unable to sleep thinking what if the police come to my home? The next morning, I discussed the matter with friends and my parents knowing it happens most of the time. The word 'hacking' people talk about most of the time, I witnessed it finally in my journey of using a laptop for 12 years.
The next day, while searching for data regarding the incident, I found many people like me have already witnessed it and got frozen for even a single minute at least. The content those hackers create on social media to hack op, computers etc., are comparable to a bullet shot from the 'media gun' into the head of the receiver. The originator presumes that the message will be directly injected into the receiver's brain. However, the concept is based on a theory of Mass Communication called 'Magic Bullet Theory' by Harold Lasswell.
The best way to avoid this trap is to click the 'ESC( ESCAPE)' key and close the website. Also continuously clicking 'Ctrl Alt + F4' and 'Alt+Ctrl+Delete' are of great help which will lead towards leaving the site. Nonetheless, due to the traumatic situation if the victim can't remember any of the keys they can also close down the laptop two times and reopen it, which worked for me perfectly as I was completely unaware of other tactics.
Also, it is important to be careful as the Virus can be downloaded from the computer itself called POLICE TROJAN, a malicious programme classified as ransomware. According to Internet Security Reports, "The fake police pop-up is a ransomware attempt that acts as a police notification and has stolen data and money from tech users across the globe. It is mostly scare-ware, which scares you and makes you click on links, or the popup notice, leading to malicious software being downloaded on your system, and in turn, enabling ransomware. Security firms say that if you get the pop-up window on your PC with such a message, there is no need to panic, even if at some point you visited mischievous websites! Even a link that is redirected to a website with adult content or even gambling related content can result in such pop-ups. Just remember, it's a scam and it's not the police. Do not pay".
If this fine is paid, the money will be sent to cyber criminals and the operating system will remain locked. This ransomware infection originates from a family of screen lockers called Goscri. A call or message from the police always makes us nervous when it's related to visiting those adult sites, and it is this fear that cybercrooks are taking advantage of now. To protect the PC, always use legitimate antivirus and antispyware software, and by frequently updating the operating system and installing programs, the computer will be secure. If the computer is already infected with 'Police - Your operating system is locked' ransomware, use the removal guide provided to eliminate it from the laptop.
Though some people get out of this trap if they can control their emotions or are already aware of such activities there are many cases across the globe where people ended up taking their own life. For example, Joseph Edwards, a 17-year-old schoolboy from Windsor, Berkshire, hanged himself after receiving a bogus email that appeared to be from the police claiming that he'd been spotted browsing illegal websites and that a fine of 100 pounds needed to be paid to stop the police from pursuing him. This is not new but a similar scam has been seen even within India. Back last year, such targeted attempts online tried to fool people out of Rs 3,000 by scaring them through the same warning - a penalty for watching porn. A gang was then caught running this scam from Tamil Nadu. Such fake warnings from the department of law and justice have been in circulation since the early 2010s in countries like the US. So, users need to stay alert and never fall into the trap of such scams and inform other people about its consequences and precautions to get rid of it.