The latest ransomware to make waves, appropriately called Popcorn Time, has a cynical twist. Pretending to be an installer for a legitimate app with the same name, once Popcorn Time is on a computer it encrypts the hard drive with AES-256 encryption. It then offers the victim a choice that is worthy of a diabolical movie villain mastermind. Either pay the creator 1 bitcoin, which has a current valued of $778, or infect two other people to get the decryption key.
The good news is that this is exactly the kind of sociological thought-experiment that scientists can no longer do thanks to those meddlesome research ethicists. It’s kind of a digital twist on the ol’ Tragedy of the Commons, only we’ll get to finally see empirically if actors screw over the collective for individual gain or make an individual sacrifice for the greater good. In other words, all our computers will be compromised by Friday.