“FBI warning” ransomware leads to man’s arrest for child sexual abuse images

Jay Matthew RileyPerhaps it turns out that malware can be a good thing, after all.

21-year-old Jay Matthew Riley, of Woodbridge, Virginia, had an alarming pop-up appear on his computer a few days ago.

The warning message which was displayed on Riley’s computer claimed to be from the FBI and accused him of “child pornography” crimes.

The message probably looked similar to the one below, telling Riley to pay a fine or risk being investigated.

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FBI ransomware

Of course, the message is fake. It’s displayed by all-too-commonly encountered ransomware, which locks victims’ computers and displays distressing messages about child sexual abuse in an attempt to trick computer owners into paying money.

So, what did Riley do?

Well, he didn’t pay the fine. Instead, he took his computer to his local police station, and asked them if the message was legitimate.

And there’s no problem with that… normally. After all, the police would probably be able to confirm that the message was the result of a malware infection rather than a genuine communication from the FBI.

But in Riley’s case there was a problem. And that problem was that he did have inappropriate messages and photos of underage girls on his computer.

A local TV station reported on the curious case:

Jay Riley facing child porn charges

Riley was charged with three counts of possessing illegal images, one count of using a communication device to solicit certain offenses involving children, and one count of indecent liberties with a minor.

We’re used to ransomware scaring users into making unwise payments to criminals, in an attempt to unlock their computer. What’s more unusual is ransomware actually leading to a man being held in jail.

Graham Cluley is an award-winning keynote speaker who has given presentations around the world about cybersecurity, hackers, and online privacy. A veteran of the computer security industry since the early 1990s, he wrote the first ever version of Dr Solomon's Anti-Virus Toolkit for Windows, makes regular media appearances, and is the co-host of the popular "Smashing Security" podcast. Follow him on Twitter, Mastodon, Threads, Bluesky, or drop him an email.

One comment on ““FBI warning” ransomware leads to man’s arrest for child sexual abuse images”

  1. Carson

    Going to the police station with your hands bloody… I thought noone ever does that.

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