This time the hackers had landed a winning blow, striking at the very heart of the modern American business office: the thermostat. Damn, these guys were good. Now the fine people of Berg Magnetics were forced to wear their puffy coats and earmuffs indoors, trying awkwardly to make sales calls with chattering teeth and type purchase orders with gloved fingers. Except Donna; she beamed like the summer sun. She always liked it cold. That’s why the thermostat had a plastic cover and a key lock to begin with. Every office had a Donna.
But alas, the thermostat was too smart for its own good, and it had been taken over by hackers from Russia, or China, or North Korea. Or maybe Denver, or Austin. Didn’t really matter where. The reality was that the damn thing was set to 45°F and this was Minneapolis in early February.
The hackers had got them once already, a few weeks back. One of the outside sales guys fell for an email spoof and downloaded some malware. Locked up all his files. Luckily he wasn’t on the network at the time. The head of IT contacted the FBI to report that hackers had encrypted company files for ransom. They wanted bitcoins. The FBI told her to pay the ransom and stop downloading malware. Nothing else could be done. The company didn’t pay. Instead, they put everyone through four hours of remedial electronic security training and drilled a bunch of holes through the encrypted laptop.
But the thermostat—now that was devious. It sent a message. It said that tomorrow could be lights that wouldn’t stop flickering, or keycards that wouldn’t let people out of the building, or non-stop inbound calls from the fax machine, or—heaven forbid!—the coffee maker could simply shut down. The ransom for the thermostat was twice what they asked for the laptop.
We’re going to pay them, of course. That’s the new cost of doing business.