The internet is "a horrible place that everyone hates" despite it having "given us nearly everything that we were promised" when it was unleashed in the 1990s, John Oliver said on Sunday's Late Week Tonight. "Specifically, though, I want to talk about one of the more damaging things the internet has enabled, and that is ransomware attacks — basically, instances where hackers get into a computer, lock up the data, and then force the owners to pay a ransom in order to unlock it."
Oliver listed a few of the big recent attacks, "and if you're thinking, 'Hold on, is it just me or did there not used to be a massive ransomware attack every two months?' You're actually right," he said. "Over the past few years, it's gone from a trickle to an absolute flood." And "if it is so pervasive that it's affecting pipelines and grandmothers," he said, "we thought tonight we'd take a look at ransomware, why it's on the rise, and what, if anything, can be done about it."
It isn't just companies that are affected by ransomware attacks, nor is it merely laptops, Oliver said, pointing out that thermostats, refrigerators, and even your "internet-enabled chastity cage" could all be hacked and held for ransom. And the "chastity cage" was merely prelude to a much more invasive cybercrime.
"The costs of ransomware keep getting higher even as, crucially, the barrier to entry has gotten much lower," Oliver said, listing the "three major developments" behind "the explosion in ransomware" — the proliferation of ransomware service providers, the rise of cryptocurrencies, and the safe havens provided the cybercriminals by Russia and other countries. He ended with a PSA to encourage you to enable two-factor authentication and take other basic cybersecurity measures, and he drove his point home with that one very uncomfortable example. It is probably not quite safe for work.