Technology is a great thing, and sex tech is often at the forefront of technological advances. Teledildonics have changed the way we think about play, and they are great for long distance relationships and brilliant for web cam. Nothing is ever perfect, though, and the teledildonics revolution has been plagued with doubts about security.
For webcam performers, the appeal of teledildonics is obvious. Thanks to technology and the wonders of the internet, someone halfway around the world from you can control your vibrator, and you can charge them for the privilege. For clients, this type of interaction is as close to being in the room with their chosen performer as they’re ever likely to get. It’s a win-win.
Gathering data is fine, but ask first.
More and more concerns have been raised about the hackability of teledildonics. In April 2017, sex toy giant We-Vibe agreed to pay $3.75 million after being accused of failing to protect customers’ data. We-Vibe’s teledildonic devices had been specifically designed to collect and record intimate and sensitive information. This data-harvesting included information about the times of use, details about vibration settings and battery life, all of which was linked to users’ email addresses.
Sure, companies often gather data for reasonable purposes like enhancing user experiences and improving the technology. In this case, the data harvesting had been carried out without users’ knowledge or consent –- and that’s where the problem lay. Though We-Vibe assured customers none of the data collected was passed to third parties, the duplicitous nature of its collection raised questions about teledildonics.
How hackable is that teledildonic on your nightstand?
It’s not just data harvesting webcammers need to worry about when using teledildonic devices. Significant evidence points to how hackable the devices can be. The We-Vibe’s data issue was revealed by two independent hackers at the 2016 DEF CON conference. During their experiments with We-Vibe devices, in spite of the devices’ security precautions, the hackers discovered they could break in and take control.
The implications are alarming. Conceivably, any teledildonic device connected to the internet via an app is vulnerable to hacking. There’s even the potential for malware to piggyback into your phone or device via the sex toy’s app. This is a horrific scenario and an obvious violation of consent.
Sex toy manufacturers have been doing their best to play down web security experts’ fears and reassure their customers about their products’ safety, but recently yet another worrying story made headlines.
Earlier this month, Italian information security researcher Giovanni Mellini revealed in a blog post how easily a Bluetooth-enabled butt plug can be hacked –- in this case, the Hush by Lovense, which is billed as the world’s first teledildonic butt plug that can be controlled from anywhere.
Mellini’s research unfortunately indicated anyone within Bluetooth range can control the Hush. Although the initial research means someone would have to be close to the user to take control of the Hush, making the device totally hackable would not be difficult.
Another recently exposed sex toy hack is the Svakom Siime Eye vibrator. This clever vibrator has an onboard camera to take intimate pics and videos during use. For webcam performers, there are obvious advantages to a toy with a camera included, and the ability of the Siime to get more intimate than a web cam opens a whole world of opportunity.
Alarmingly, PenTestPartners, a penetration testing company, has discovered not only is the Siime hackable, but it als is possible, if the device is connected to a Wi-Fi network, to harvest a list of passwords, local networks and video data. This level of security breach obviously would leave users –- including cam performers — open to great distress and vulnerable to blackmailing.
Is a teledildonic butt plug worth the risk?
A lot of the security issues associated with teledildonics seem to be related to cost-cutting when building the toys’ tech. In the battle to be first on the market, companies bypass more complicated security features in favor of cheaper, easier ones. Hackers, being hackers, always will test the breach-ability of any web-enabled device, so building technology on the security-cheap at the outset must change.
As consumers, we need to accept price tags on teledildonics likely will rise in relation to increased security. In fact, given what’s at stake, we may need to demand it. The earning potential with teledildonics is huge. Surely the initial outlay is a small price to pay for security when playing with these intimate devices.
Katy Seymour is a super-sex-positive writer in the U.K. who believes kink is life. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Watch these hackers demonstrate their takeover of your sex toys during DEF CON 2016.