Data Devices Community Privacy Safety Technology

Johnie’s washing machine adventure

Depending on which parts of X you frequent, if any, you may have seen a recent post of a guy (Johnie) calling out his washing machine for some particularly rambunctious data usage. 

So, why is a post about washing machine data usage getting 17.4m views? 

It’s the perfect post. For a start, it tickles the armchair-detective internet mystery machine. It speaks to the same masses that obsess over three words of an unknown song heard in the background of a bar during an X-Files episode 30 years ago. Secondly, everyone wants to piggyback the viral engagement, contributing replies steeped in X brand gentle comedy. Finally, the real hook, is the slight peeling back of the curtain to reveal something we’re all slightly uncomfortable with. Something we suspect, something we’re weary of, something that when we catch it, we get that full vindicated AHA! moment. 

Hacked device
Hacked device

Who is Johnie’s washing machine talking to?

So far, so unsolved. For a while, the prevailing joke was that Johnie’s washing machine was being used to mine Bitcoin. A legitimate theory was a failed firmware update, sending a perpetual cycle of diagnostics reports and chalking up some sizeable data usage. Others suggested things like IoT malware and the likelihood Johnie’s washing machine was now part of a botnet. Ultimately, and potentially frustratingly, there was never a resolution. Johnie took his washing machine offline and they’ve since been living happily ever after. 

The real implication of Johnie’s infamous washing machine

For a lot of people, this might be their ‘smart device goes rogue’ news story of the month, quickly forgotten about until the next one piques interest - something seen as an anomaly, spooky enough to warrant a cursory read but seemingly no immediate threat. In reality, this is indicative of a global security issue. 

Johnie’s replies were right. Regardless of the issues with Johnie’s machine specifically, any device connected to the IoT could have exploitable vulnerabilities… and there are over 17 billion of them. Parks Associates’ research stated that, in 2023, the average American home had 17 connected devices, all constantly sharing data, all potentially at risk.

How do I know if my smart devices are part of a botnet?

Botnets are just one example of vulnerability exploitation in smart devices. We’ve discussed these at length, and a cursory google of smart device security risks will return myriad articles on everything from data privacy concerns to being watched (sometimes literally) to having your identity stolen. 

One massive takeaway for us was that the only way Johnie knew something was awry with his washing machine was by monitoring its data communication. This type of unusual device behavior (hijacking, oversharing, simple malfunctions), might not get caught in something like a firewall. Firewalls are static defenses designed to keep as much out as possible, but not infallible, and not future-proof. 

Data monitoring, however, is a dynamic solution to device security. Our AI compiles thousands of intricate device profiles, crowdsourced from users, to allow instant identification of threats via data anomalies in device communication patterns. Just like Johnie checking his washing machine, but all devices, all the time. 

We believe this is the best way to identify compromised smart devices in an ever-evolving and exponentially growing landscape. No bottlenecks, no obsolescence, no workarounds. Just pure data engineering primed to instantly identify any communication anomaly in any device.

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