Partway through his main story on Sunday, John Oliver quoted that old cliché, “Assholes are like opinions—letting the internet be in charge of yours is a really bad idea.” You know, that old saying. Now, Oliver was just using an extreme, all-too-real example of scatological nonsense to prove a point, but the Last Week Tonight host did effectively hammer home the point that our over-reliance on internet-enabled technology has left us all ridiculously vulnerable to ransomware attacks.
And, sure, not everybody is going to insert a Japanese-manufactured, remotely controlled, expanding animal-tail butt plug into themselves (and nobody here is kink-shaming those brave souls who are). But, as Oliver noted in his typically alarming fashion, we’re all in continual danger of getting involuntarily screwed by our favorite gadgets. Take thermostats, whose smart home capabilities have been hijacked up to sweltering temperatures. Or a major U.S. gas pipeline, whose data was held for ransom by some nefarious hacker types, leading to long gas lines throughout the Southeast until the corporation involved (Colonial Pipeline Company) paid an exorbitant ransom. Oh, and don’t get Oliver started on hospitals, as he scolded one cybersecurity expert for phrasing her assessment of the state of medical facilities’ lax computer security in the most hacker-baiting way possible.
As Oliver noted, there are some major factors at play in the alarming rise of ransomware attacks (which reaped a no-doubt underreported $350 million for internet scammers last year alone). Cryptocurrency isn’t just the least sufferable topic favored by the least sufferable people you know—it makes it ridiculously easy for users of crypto like monero to hide their identities along with your purloined (actual) money. Those ransomware companies that make locking up a target’s data as easy as setting up your Sliders fan fiction blog aren’t helping, either. Especially since they traditionally have better customer service that the legitimate internet companies they’re targeting. (Oliver shows how one grandmother was helpfully walked through the process of converting the $500 ransom for her laptop’s files into Bitcoin, for crying out loud.) And then there’s Russia, a country so friendly to hackers of all stripes (as long as they do their business outside of Russia) that ransomware pirates there flaunt everything from their camo-painted Lamborghinis to their pet lion cubs without fear of retribution.
Enlisting the most trusted yet subtly menacing voice in advertising to urge viewers to start taking their personal cybersecurity seriously, Oliver then threw to J.K. Simmons in a commercial instructing everybody on some easy steps to thwart this nonsense. Two- (or more-)factor authentication, people. Keep your computers updated, as companies are constantly attempting to close vulnerabilities as soon as they’re discovered. And, hey, maybe don’t open any suspicious emails, lest your precious information is locked up by some douchebag overseas who announces his presence with a Saw GIF. Because, as Oliver shows convincingly, Jigsaw’s little Rube Goldberg murder contraptions aren’t nearly as scary.