John Oliver devoted a segment of Last Week Tonight to the problem of ransomware, where hackers break into a computer system, lock up all the data, and then demand payment, usually in cryptocurrencies, in order to provide the key to unlock it. Barely a day goes by without some report about a new ransomware attack. The news stories focus on the havoc caused by attacks on big entities like hospitals, local governments, and businesses. But Oliver points out that with more and more people having their home devices hooked up to the internet, those become vulnerable as well.
For example, if your thermostat can be operated remotely, then it is possible for a hacker to seize control and turn up the heat to a very high level until you pay the ransom. Similar interference can be done with your refrigerator and stove and any other wi-fi enabled device. And who knows what mischief can be done if your Alexa or Siri services get hacked. When you read about such possibilities, one can understand why some people choose to go off the grid.
One might think that it would not be worth the while for hackers to go after ordinary individuals because the payoff is not large. But ordinary people are also easier targets since they are less likely to have security precautions in place. The risk for the hacker is also lower since such people are more likely to panic and quickly pay the ransom and not try and fight it. It is similar to the Nigerian prince-type scam that targets regular people.
Oliver says at a minimum, people should have two-factor authorization in place.