Sex Toys Are Just As Poorly-Secured As The Rest Of The Internet of Broken Things
from the masturbatory-metadata dept
At this point we’ve pretty well documented how the “internet of things” is a privacy and security dumpster fire. Whether it’s tea kettles that expose your WiFi credentials or smart fridges that leak your Gmail password, companies were so busy trying to make a buck by embedding network chipsets into everything, they couldn’t be bothered to adhere to even the most modest security and privacy guidelines. As a result, billions upon billions of devices are now being connected to the internet with little to no meaningful security and a total disregard to user privacy — posing a potentially fatal threat to us all.
Unsurprisingly, the sex toy division of the internet of broken things is no exception to this rule. One “smart dildo” manufacturer was recently forced to shell out $3.75 million after it was caught collecting, err, “usage habits” of the company’s customers. According to the lawsuit, Standard Innovation’s We-Vibe vibrator collected sensitive data about customer usage, including “selected vibration settings,” the device’s battery life, and even the vibrator’s “temperature.” At no point did the company apparently think it was a good idea to clearly inform users of this data collection.
But security is also lacking elsewhere in the world of internet-connected sex toys. Alex Lomas of Pentest Partners recently took a look at the security in many internet-connected sex toys, and walked away arguably unimpressed. Using a Bluetooth “dongle” and antenna, Lomas drove around Berlin looking for openly accessible sex toys (he calls it “screwdriving,” in a riff off of wardriving). He subsequently found it’s relatively trivial to discover and hijack everything from vibrators to smart butt plugs — thanks to the way Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) connectivity works:
“The only protection you have is that BLE devices will generally only pair with one device at a time, but range is limited and if the user walks out of range of their smartphone or the phone battery dies, the adult toy will become available for others to connect to without any authentication. I should say at this point that this is purely passive reconnaissance based on the BLE advertisements the device sends out ? attempting to connect to the device and actually control it without consent is not something I or you should do. But now one could drive the Hush?s motor to full speed, and as long as the attacker remains connected over BLE and not the victim, there is no way they can stop the vibrations.”
Lomas found that hearing aids that also use the BLE standard are similarly vulnerable, letting an attacker easily disrupt functionality of the devices. He proceeds to note that this could all be prevented via any number of improvements to these devices, including usage of a unique PIN, the need for local physical interaction (like a button push) to connect, or lowering the Bluetooth signal strength.
But as we’ve noted previously, a big part of the security and privacy apathy coming from router and IOT device makers is due to the fact that nobody in these supply chains has the financial incentive to try very hard (if at all), so most will be off hyping the next iteration of their magical, intelligent butt plug — instead of shoring up the problems with the last generation.