Beyond Your Computer: 5 Ways Ransomware Will Take You Captive in the Future

Dann Albright 09-12-2015

Trojans and botnets are bad, but ransomware Don't Fall Foul of the Scammers: A Guide To Ransomware & Other Threats Read More is one of the nastiest, most vile kinds of malware out there. And it’s getting worse Ransomware Keeps Growing - How Can You Protect Yourself? Read More . The criminals using ransomware are becoming more advanced, and by integrating electronics into just about every part of our lives, we’re just opening up more targets for them to hit. Here are five things that could be taken hostage in the very near future.


Your Car Can Be Hacked

In July, two hackers killed a Jeep that was driving on the highway. The accelerator stopped working, and the Jeep slowed to a crawl on an overpass with no shoulder. This was all planned—for a Wired article—but the result of the demonstration remains chilling. They messed with the air conditioning, the radio, and the windshield wipers. In short, they had total control over the Jeep, despite being in a basement 10 miles away.

Obviously, this is a rather extreme example, but the idea of hacking a car Can Hackers REALLY Take Over Your Car? Read More is one you should be a bit nervous about. Some people say it’s not likely to happen, while others say it’s a big threat. The truth is we just don’t know yet. One research team found a way to remotely disable a car’s brakes. Another group was able to mess with the tire pressure system and track a car’s movements.

Even if disabling your car remotely isn’t possible, it’s not hard to imagine that ransomware could hit your vehicle in the near future. Whether delivered wirelessly or through the onboard diagnostics port, a piece of malware could simply keep your car from starting and display a ransom message on your dashboard. “Pay up, and you get your car back.” “Make a quick deposit, and you can go to work.” Or, if the Wired article can be seen as an indication of future abilities, “give us some cash, and we’ll let you move your car from the side of the highway.”

Smart Home Malware

The Internet of Things (IoT) has added a lot of cool functionality to our houses, but it’s also made them a significantly larger security threat 5 Devices You Do NOT Want to Connect to the Internet of Things The Internet of Things (IoT) may not be everything it’s cracked up to be. In fact, there are some smart devices you may not want to connect to the web at all. Read More . IP cameras can be used to spy on people, smoke detectors can be messed with, TVs can be hacked, smart thermostats can have their settings changed, smart lamps can be switched on and off… even entire home automation hubs can be taken over. Which makes smart homes prime targets for ransomware.



If you live in a cold place, how much would you pay to have your heat turned back on? Would you be willing to wait for the police to try and track down the perpetrator? Or would you just fork over $500 so you didn’t have to stay with someone else until the situation is resolved? What about having no lights in your entire house? Having your toilet flush constantly? These are the sorts of havoc that hackers could wreak on a smart home.

Fortunately, the vulnerabilities in smart home technology have been widely discussed, and it’s likely that some manufacturers will pay attention to the unease that this discussion is instilling in some consumers. Third parties are also developing systems that can protect your smart home The iGuardian: A Smart Way to Protect Your Home Network Read More  in an attempt to head off potential attacks like this.

Of course, most people just don’t know that they’re vulnerable, and leave themselves open to attack.


Your Health Is Up for Grabs

This might be the most terrifying prospect of them all. A recent Forrester report predicted that next year we’ll start to see health devices being hit by ransomware. Pacemakers, diabetic implants, health monitors, deep-brain stimulators These Brain Implants Promise To Eradicate Depression From Humanity A fascinating form of depression treatment called deep brain stimulation is gaining ground and may change the way we view the treatment of mental disorders. Read More , even emergency alert systems could be taken captive by hackers who demand payment for their release. Of course, you might argue that the elderly aren’t great targets for this because they probably don’t know what Bitcoins are, but the threat is still there.


Implanted devices containing computers Plugging In Your Brain and Body - The Future Of Implanted Computers With the current trend of technical innovation and advancement, now is a good time to explore the state of the art in computer-human technologies. Read More are becoming increasingly common; and while most of them are implanted in patients with chronic issues today, it’s quite possible that there will be voluntary implants that monitor things like heartrate, blood pressure, and other standard vital signs and transmit them to the doctor. If Google’s contact lens project Will LED Contact Lenses Make Google Glass Obsolete? A contact lens which displays information feels like something from science fiction, conjuring up images of the Terminator and Bionic Woman. This technology, perhaps Google Glass' successor, is just around the corner. Read More works out, it may pave the way for connected implantable retinas or other optic technology.

The more of these devices we have, the more we open ourselves up to potential attacks. The medical industry hasn’t done a great job with cybersecurity in wearables so far—and if we’re not to have our bodies taken hostage, they need to step it up.


Ransomware and Video Games

A recent CryptoLocker-like attack hit a lot of gamers, forcing them to make a Bitcoin payment to get access to their games. While this attack happened on PC, it’s naive to think that it couldn’t happen on gaming consoles as well. While I haven’t seen any reports of PS4 or Xbox ransomware, I wouldn’t be surprised to see it hit the market soon. Because so much of the information on your console is also backed up in the cloud, hackers might have to innovate to be effective, but if any characteristic can be ascribed to hackers, it’s resourcefulness.


You may not think that game ransomware would be a big deal, but a lot of people invest a huge amount of time and money in their games, and having them held hostage could be an awfully traumatic experience. If you’ve spent $1,000 on your gaming system and games, paying a couple hundred bucks to get it unlocked might not seem like such a bad deal. Some saved game files contain hundreds of hours 5 Games You Can Play For Over 100 Hours – That’s Value! One of the many traits unique to video games is the sheer volume of entertainment a game can provide. While a movie is over in two hours on average, and a TV show may offer... Read More of a person’s life, and erasing that could be a viable threat.

Your Smartphone May Be Next

Mobile ransomware FBI Ransomware Hits Android: How to Avoid Getting It (And Remove It) Learn how to keep your Android device safe from FBI Ransomware with these tips. Read More is already becoming more common, but it hasn’t gotten huge yet. But our phones are our connection to the world, and I can think of a lot of people who would be so helpless without their phones that they’d quickly pay a ransom just so they could look up what to do when their phones get hit with ransomware.



In addition to holding your phone captive, hackers could also extract a lot of information; contacts, social media accounts, credit cards, banking information… it’s all stored in your phone. And if they can encrypt all of that data, there’s a good chance that they can steal it as well. So in addition to having your phone locked down, keeping you from watching cat videos and sending inane texts, they’ll probably steal everything from it, too.

What Else Will Be Taken Captive?

Right now, personal computers are the main attack vector for by ransomware—but that will probably change very soon. And when it does, a lot of people are going to be taken by surprise. Unfortunately, there’s not a whole lot you can do about some of these threats. You can’t install anti-virus software in your car, and you probably can’t change the password on your pacemaker. For the most part, it will be up to the manufacturers of these devices to protect. And that is very worrying indeed.

Are you worried about ransomware hitting your car, or your home? Do you think manufacturers are paying enough attention to these threats? Or is it all just overblown? Share your thoughts below!

Image credits: Exclusive car dashboard by kaczor58 via Shutterstock, Syda Productions via, khuruzero via, MyImages – Micha via, conejota via

Related topics: Internet of Things, Online Security, Ransomware.

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  1. Anonymous
    December 11, 2015 at 11:54 pm

    I support my wife's supermarket because it has the lowest prices and the best flyer sales, not because it has the best employee.

    I do not think that other chains in our area offer Shop at Home. At the other stores I do not see drudges in store livery scurrying about, filling up countless shopping carts.

    Ordering groceries by phone is not a recent phenomenon. A number of companies were started in the late 1990s with many of them going bust when the dotcom bubble burst. There are still a few companies left, PeaPod being one.

  2. Anonymous
    December 9, 2015 at 2:36 pm

    "Beyond Your Computer: 5 Ways Ransomware Will Take You Captive in the Future"
    That is only to be expected when we insist on EVERYTHING having WiFi connectivity. The latest Barbie doll from Mattel has WiFi connectivity. Anybody for Barbie doing a Chucky (from Child's Play) impression?! Imagine how many little girls that can traumatize.

    I know it is the latest fad but why does every inanimate object have to connect to the 'Net??? Don't get me wrong, I am not against Internet connectivity but only where it actually needed and/or necessary. Let's hope that the IoT, as envisioned today, goes the way of disco and leisure suits.

    • Dann Albright
      December 9, 2015 at 6:15 pm

      You do have a point in that ransomware will only affect what we have connected to the internet. I agree that the Barbie was total overkill; there's just no reason for that. Cars, smart homes, and medical devices I can see, though. I guess medical devices might not be worth the risk yet; we've been fine without connectivity in those devices for a long time, and it might be too early to take advantage of new tech with them. Fortunately, that's something that hasn't started happening yet . . . let's hope it doesn't.

      As for the way IoT is envisioned today, I certainly understand why you're not a fan. I think the idea is a good one, but we're moving a little too quickly without thinking everything through.

      • Anonymous
        December 9, 2015 at 6:55 pm

        "we’re moving a little too quickly without thinking everything through."
        Ya think?! Manufacturers are sticking WiFi into everything, whether it needs WiFi connectivity or not, whether it makes sense or not. Why does my toothbrush, my toilet or my toaster need to access the Internet?!

        Why does the car that I drive need Internet access? GPS yes, WiFi no. If manufacturers want to equip my car with WiFi, they ought to make sure that it is absolutely isolated from any of the computers that control the car. Right now, that is the Achilles heel of self-driving cars. Anybody with a laptop can remotely carjack a Google car.

        My wife works in the Shop at Home department of a supermarket chain. The chain policy is to only accept orders placed over the phone. The company feels that Internet orders while convenient, can be too easily subverted. So that puts the kabosh on a Smart Fridge automatically ordering whatever it is running out of. :-)

        • Dann Albright
          December 11, 2015 at 9:58 pm

          That's actually really interesting that the supermarket chain your wife works for only accepts orders over the phone! Do you have any idea if other supermarket chains have had problems with online ordering? I'm actually quite surprised to hear that; a lot of grocery stores have gone to online ordering lately. But yes, that would definitely keep your smart fridge from ordering groceries that you run out of. :-) Unless, of course, you just switch grocery stores, which I think most people who aren't supporting the business that employees their spouse would probably be happy to do.