Hardware hacker breaks the DRM on a mini dishwasher
Developer dekuNukem (the hacker behind a little gadget that turns your screen on when your boss passes by) showed how to reload the DRM-protected detergent cartridges for Bob, a portable dishwasher that costs US $ 486 ($ 627).
Bob is essentially a little dishwasher that rests on your kitchen counter. It can handle six plates and some utensils, and you manually supply water to the system. It appears to be a fantastic substitute for a larger fitted dishwasher or good furniture for an apartment occupant. Yet, there is a covert DRM component that links you to the business’s products.
The Bob utilises cassettes with powerful detergents and dishwashing chemicals named Rock and Pop (LOL!). The cartridges are similar to ink cartridges in that they have a built-in chip that can store a limited amount of data; in this case, it is a straightforward I2C EEPROM.
This chip keeps track of the number of washes and, if a cassette is technically empty, “cancels” it. Afterwards the gadget will immediately place a new cassette order. Although it is difficult, you can use your own washing detergent in Bob’s favour. And cassettes aren’t cheap either.
“With delivery and VAT included, the price for 90 washes is a whooping £ 43 ($77)! 48 pence per wash, then. Although it may not seem like much, dekuNukem said that it adds up rapidly. “Daily laundry for nearly a year would have cost only in Bob recordings £ 174 ($ 312)! Imagine having to pay so many ongoing expenses for a dishwasher.
They were able to extract the data from the cartridge and even alter it using an EEPROM reader, leading to a straightforward way of resetting the cartridges to their original wash counts or, in one instance, forcing the cartridge to perform around 70 more washes than was initially claimed.
When dekuNukem found out the coding method, they had to develop a means to replace the cartridges. They looked online for prices on concentrated detergent and discovered one that completely fit the website’s description.
Thankfully, all chemical goods in the UK are required to come with a safety data sheet that lists their composition and product concentration. That way, I can gauge how similar a new washing detergent is to Bob Cassette by comparing them, they wrote.
DekuNukem discovered a comparable washing and rinsing item, purchased it, and spilled some of it into the cassette. Success!
The outcome? 65 cents may be saved on each wash.
“Refilling is more than 60 times cheaper than purchasing a new one, resulting in enormous cost savings of 98%!” They compose.
On dekuNukem’s Github, you can find the designs and source code for the open source DRM removal solution for dishwashers. In reality, they charge $40 for the Cassette Rewinder, a pre-soldered circuit board that instantly resets the cassette EEPROM. It goes without saying that this isn’t good for the business that manufactures Bob, but it could make the product more appealing to the genuine anti-DRM zealots out there.