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Forget your bank, hackers say we should worry about smart sex toy privacy

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Stephanie Watson/
No one wants to share their data with just any old app developer, and even less so when it could reveal when, and how often, a smart sex toy is used. That’s the accusation against Standard Innovation Corporation, makers of the We-Vibe 4 Plus vibrator, by two hackers at the DefCon hacking conference in Las Vegas. The pair, who go by the names Follower and Goldfisk, presented their findings in a talk called Hacking the Internet of Vibrating Things. Sure, the name is quite amusing, but the implications are less so.

Here’s what the hackers say the problem is. The app which controls the vibrator sends two key data points back to the company’s servers — temperature and vibration intensity. Put these two together, say the hackers, and it’s easy to come up with a graph of when the toy is used, how long for, and how often. Ugh.

Perhaps even worse, hackers with a special tool (sorry, no pun intended) can intercept the connection between vibrator and controlling device, therefore taking control of it. The hackers say this means it could be activated at any time. This probably doesn’t mean it’ll start vibrating away at the most inopportune moment. The reality is actually worse. “How do you really know who is making you squirm with pleasure,” the hacking team asks, emphasising the more sinister, unpleasant aspect of the issue.

While it can be easy to giggle at this kind of thing, the hackers point out there are two million users of We-Vibe products, and that’s a lot of very intimate data that most likely, none would want exposed. Standard Innovation has responded to the findings, and in a statement says it ensures all data is encrypted and protected during transfer and storage, and that it only collects temperature and intensity levels for market research, and hardware diagnostics. It goes on to say it’ll be reviewing its policy on data privacy to, “provide more transparency.”

Interestingly, Follower and Goldfisk have their own solution, a set of standards for the high-tech adult industry to follow called Private Play Accord, which it hopes will put an end to our most intimate privacy worries.

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