It was only a matter of time before someone discovered how to hack Amazon’s dash buttons, the tiny, Wi-Fi-enabled devices you can use to buy more detergent or toilet paper at the literal push of a button. As co-founder and CTO of software firm Cloudstitch Ted Benson discovered, with some basic programming skills, you can hack them to do almost anything.
Benson used a script in programming language Python to repurpose his button; by pushing the button every time his son pooped, the script would log the data instead of ordering more diapers. A dash button is essentially made up of a Wi-Fi radio and a battery, and lies dormant until you press it. Once activated, the button connects to your Wi-Fi, places the set order (in Benson’s case Huggies diapers), and then turns itself off to conserve power. This is key, because it means that the button goes through the same process of getting on your network each time.
There are all kinds of uses for an internet-connected button
In his post on Medium, Benson explains how he was able to search for the button on his Wi-Fi network, get its MAC address, and have his computer detect each time the button connected to the network; it then logged each instance in a Google Spreadsheet, creating a poop database. He avoided racking up hundreds of dollars in diaper bills by disabling the link between the button and any specific product, so it didn't place any orders.
In theory, it’s easy to think of all kinds of uses for an internet-connected button that costs only $4.99 — anything from turning lights on and off, playing music, activating your coffee maker, or tracking the progress of something. There is no end to the smart devices that will relieve you of these and other mundane duties, but they’re also far more expensive.
Amazon could soon close the loophole that allows tinkerers to mess with the Dash button — especially considering it’s counting on making multiple bulk sales through them — but for now, the only thing holding you back is your lack of programming skills.