How one man hacked Amazon’s Dash Button to track his baby’s potty habits
Amazon recently started shipping its ingenious Dash Buttons: small, battery-powered, Wi-Fi-connected sticks that re-order specific products at the push of a button. However, it turns out they’re capable of a whole lot more besides. Inadvertently, Amazon has shipped an incredibly cheap Internet of Things device that can be hacked to perform a variety of functions.
The hackability of Amazon’s Dash Button was discovered by Cloudstitch CTO Ted Benson who, through lack of better solutions, found he could subvert a Dash Button and use it to log his baby’s bowel movements instead. He posted his discovery on Medium, and it turns out you don’t need a huge amount of technical know-how to make it work.
Dash Buttons conserve power by only connecting to the internet when they need to; so only when you push the device’s button. Every time the button is pressed, it connects to your Wi-Fi network and makes a connection to Amazon’s servers. You can see when this happens by monitoring your router traffic, and looking out for the Dash Button’s unique MAC address, which appears each time a connection is made.
To ensure that his Dash Button didn’t make an Amazon order every time its button was pressed, Benson simply omitted the step where you link the button to ordering a specific product. This means it will go through the motions of connecting to your Wi-Fi router, but won’t actually ever purchase anything.
The next step was a little more technical: Benson called upon his Python programming knowledge to make each press of the Dash Button post an entry on a spreadsheet of times and dates. Of course, not everyone wants to track their kid’s potty habits, but the possibilities are intriguing – apps such as IF could potentially turn the Dash Button into a trigger for a whole variety of predefined commands.
Perhaps you want a connected doorbell that buzzes your mobile phone whenever someone’s at the door, rather than ringing wildly through your house? Or you could hook it up to a Raspberry Pi 2, and use it to create a whole host of cool Pi projects.
Of course, Amazon may decide it doesn’t quite like people subverting its Dash Buttons. It seems there’s very little it can do to remedy the situation, but perhaps it will start shipping Buttons hard-coded to individual products, instead of relying on consumers to do it themselves.