Bluetooth Sex Toys - Hacking and Privacy Concerns

Posted by Anna Bergeron on

Brad Heines goes by the name RenderMan. Brad has a particular goal in mind. He’s the head of the aptly named “Internet of Dongs,” a project striving to keep smart sex toys (toys connected to the IoT (Internet of Things)) safe from data theft.

Protecting your Bluetooth vibrator or butt plug from hacking sounds like a silly concept at best. But that’s precisely what makes it so crucial. Hardly anyone thinks that their most intimate companion would ever pique the interest of data thieves, let alone that it harbors data that could put you in a real bind. But that risk is very much present — or it could be, at least.

Some of you might be feeling lost at this point. What’s all the fuss about, and what even is a Bluetooth sex toy? Let’s clarify a few things before we get to the crux of the matter.

What Are Bluetooth Sex Toys?

Bluetooth sex toys are a staple of the burgeoning field of teledildonics, a branch of sex tech. That means they involve the merging of sexual props (dildos, butt plugs, kegel trainers, etc.) with information technology to facilitate what people call remote sex.

What Is the Internet of Things?

Anyone familiar with the concept of IoT will have a pretty solid understanding of smart sex toys. For those who aren’t, the Internet of Things is a network of objects (think along the lines of refrigerators, cars, air conditioners, and the like) that allows said objects to communicate with each other.

What makes IoT so captivating is its near-limitless potential for application. You could have your fridge analyze its contents and come up with a grocery list for you, for example. Alternatively, imagine a front door that can recognize your face and let you in without you needing to lift a finger.

It’s safe to say that the IoT front is, as of yet, unexplored and seemingly brimming with possibilities. And it’s also little wonder that we see creative ideas for its implementation popping up left and right — including the sex industry.

How Bluetooth Sex Toys Work

Smart sex toys typically involve the internet or Bluetooth to spice up your experience in various ways. Precisely what they do with this internet/Bluetooth connection depends on their purpose, but they all make use of software of some kind. And this software tells the toys what to do.

For example, a vibrator could be hooked up to an app that lets someone change its settings. This vibrator app could change the intensity of the vibrations, their duration, temperature, or anything else of that nature. Some can even provide a video recording of your time with them if you’re up for it.

In most cases, these devices store your personal data, as in your preferred settings or previous recordings. That way, when you use them again, they already know what you like, so to speak, and you don’t need to recreate your favorite setup. That allows you to get out of them precisely what excites you the most in ways that “dumb” toys simply cannot deliver.

Why Do People Use Bluetooth Sex Toys?

The most exciting aspect of connected toys is the entirely new dimension that they add to sex. The mind easily conjures ways in which a kegel training app, for instance, can open up an array of alluring scenarios.

One option would be to let someone else, e.g., a partner, control your Bluetooth butt plug remotely. They could, at any moment’s notice, activate it while you’re going about your day. It could happen while you’re vacuuming or while browsing the internet.

Better yet, you might be out in public, say, out shopping or at work, greeted by a wonderful sensation that’s entirely out of your control. Only the one holding the butt plug app has a say in when you get your satisfaction.

However, while innovative kink is definitely a worthy pursuit, Bluetooth or internet-connected sex toys can also render a nobler service. Namely, they can make long-distance relationships easier to endure by leagues.

Keeping Long-Distance Relationships Close

It’s well known that one of the most daunting challenges long-distance relationships face is intimacy. It’s pretty much impossible to get physical with someone when you’re miles apart, after all. And while nothing quite measures up to the real thing, something like a Bluetooth sex toy can definitely come close.

Imagine two people that live in two different cities. Although they cannot touch one another per se, they could use connected sex toys to feel closer to each other during remote sex. For example, they might use a smart dildo that tracks the movements of one partner and imitates it, simulating what they would do to the other.

Meanwhile, a smart fleshlight can likewise mimic how the other acts. They might also add video feeds, allowing both of them to see each other as they pleasure their partners. In these situations, a tool like a Bluetooth sex toy could help keep the spark of passion alive where it would otherwise fade.

Bluetooth Sex Toy Hacking

By now, the prospect of buying and using these kinds of toys probably sounds more than a little appealing to you. While it does definitely titillate the imagination, there’s a sobering truth we should remind you of.

Bluetooth sex toys (and smart ones in general) are vulnerable to hacking. We will get to what hackers can accomplish by doing so, but let’s first see what makes your smart toy dick a sitting duck.

IoT and Bluetooth’s Security Vulnerability

As a hypothetical concept, the Internet of Things is undoubtedly exciting. However, it’s far from perfect at its current stage.

One of the most grievous issues plaguing IoT is data security. Despite endless efforts, we still struggle to provide adequate security protocols, from identity verification to threat detection. Therefore, cyberattacks present a serious problem — a 300% surge in IoT cyberattacks in 2019 attests to that. And once they’re in, they can take command of or interfere with the system.

The IoT industry and Bluetooth have never been the best of friends, despite what one might think. Bluetooth devices are, unfortunately, just as easy to “crack into,” if not even easier than internet-driven ones. Not only are their cybersafety protocols generally lacking, but many people still use older, even less secure Bluetooth versions.

Lack of Experience From Developers

As we’ve already established, IoT has a major cybersecurity problem. But that issue becomes compounded when you add poor development into the mix. A lot of companies that begin dabbling in teledildonics don’t really have the knowledge required to do the job right.

That is due to the fact that most of these companies have never dealt with connecting products to the internet. They rarely know what it takes to assemble such a thing, nor have they had much experience with fields like big data collection and analysis. Creating safe devices of this kind isn’t exactly easy, and these manufacturers fall short of what one should expect from a smart device security wise.

Nobody Takes It Seriously

A more annoying factor contributing to the problem is one of culture. Attitudes that the cultures making these products hold about sex products (and sex in general) is actually more harmful than people might presume. You see, because of what it is, a lot of folks don’t take this industry seriously.

That might not seem to correlate at a glance, but it reflects on the safety of smart sex toys in a real way. Many people fail to approach the idea of the sex industry earnestly. Thus, when, say, a cybersecurity team needs to assess a product’s safety, their concerns often fall on deaf ears. That kind of trivialization happens more than you think, and its outcomes are apparent.

How Hackers Can Hurt You With Your Own Sex Toys

So how can a hacker take advantage of slipping into your Bluetooth toy? Well, they can assume control of the device you’re using. And then, they can do with it as they please. The consequences of this can range from irritating to downright traumatic, but it’s never a pleasant surprise.

Let’s say someone got a hold of your vibrator’s commands while you were in the middle of using it. They could, for example, max its vibration intensity. Maybe they increase its temperature to something that would hurt you. All of that could lead to potential tissue damage if taken too far. Add on top of that the implication of indirect rape, and the experience can prove pretty horrific.

Bluetooth Sex Toy Information Theft

While the aforementioned harm by hackers is grave, they can cause even more problems than that. Personal data is the most valuable resource for cyberattackers, and nine times out of ten, that’s what they’re after. And even the data your sex toy has can come in useful to them.

If they manage to attain your personal information, they have the power to hold it hostage essentially. From there, they’re in the perfect position to blackmail you, either to ransom off the data or to get you to do whatever they ask of you. Obviously, not wanting to have this data spread around, you have little choice but to comply.

Who Is Most Vulnerable?

Of all demographics, the one facing the highest risk from information theft is online sex workers.

Sex workers rely on their audience to maintain a steady income. To keep attracting and retaining customers, they tend to keep up with the latest trends in the sex biz. Remote-controlled sex toys, Bluetooth ones included, are a pretty popular innovation, so they use them regularly. That way, the workers keep their viewers happy, which pays off.

Alternatively, if they have large enough platforms, companies that manufacture smart toys will likely approach them. The companies’ intent is to market their product to the workers’ audience, following the influencer model. So the worker gets paid to advertise, while the company gets exposure. It’s a natural fit, so it happens all the time.

All of this leads to them often using smart sex devices in front of large audiences. But not all viewers are but harmless spectators. A bad actor can potentially take over the computer that runs the worker’s sex app remotely. And you can guess what could happen from there.

But Does It Really Happen?

If you’ve made it this far, odds are you’ve found yourself turned off by the idea of getting one of these Bluetooth sex toys for yourself. There’s no way you would willingly jump into this hellish landscape where your dildo could turn into a doomsday device at any turn. It’s suicide, right?

Well, while it sounds like a monumentally bad idea from what we’ve written, the truth might surprise you. In spite of all the possibilities we listed here, there haven’t been as many attacks as you would think. There have barely been any, in fact.

That’s why all the examples in this article have been hypothetical — because nobody really has any report of a real-life instance. The only ones who have done anything of the sort were white hat hackers. And they only did it for demonstration purposes, with the view of highlighting potential vulnerabilities of the products they hacked.

Even Brad Heines, the leading figure in sex toy hacking we mentioned at the start, admits that the odds of a real hack taking place are next to nothing. It’s just too unlikely. A hacker would need to catch you at the right time (once every other day for up to thirty minutes), and they would still need to be close if you’re using Bluetooth (as in, a couple of feet from you).

All in all, it won’t happen to you. And if somehow it does, you’ll undoubtedly know who did it.

How to Stay Safe With Bluetooth Sex Toys

Even though the chances of your smart toy getting hacked are slim, it could potentially happen. So how can you ensure that it doesn’t? Keeping your toys safe is actually quite similar to your run-of-the-mill online safety etiquette.

For one, make sure that the product you own or use has encryption technology. Encryption essentially turns all data into random strings of symbols, making it next to impossible to understand for a hacker.

Secondly, you should always update the software powering your toys. It’s for the same reason so many programs keep pestering you to update them. Developers put out updates that fix security weak spots. If you don’t update, you keep that weak spot open for cyberintruders. We know updates are tedious, but they exist for a reason.

When you have your Bluetooth enabled, consider changing its name if you want to maintain the secrecy of what you’re up to. Make it something inconspicuous so that it doesn’t raise any eyebrows. It’s better to have yourself aroused than your neighbors’ suspicion.

Another vital tip is to create strong passwords. You’d be surprised at how many people set theirs to “1234” or something like that. It’s obviously a terrible idea, so beef up your password. Add numbers and symbols like “&” or “!” don’t make it anything related to you (name, pet, or similar), and make it longer than six characters. Overall, it should be long and hard if you will.

Finally, you should analyze the privacy policy by which your toy’s provider abides. Some terms might be poorly written and leave openings for abuse. Others yet are expressly crafted with the purpose of giving the company leeway to handle your data laxly. If they don’t take your private information seriously, there’s no reason for you to take them seriously.

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