The fake news about hacked electric toothbrushes shows us the elements of the “perfect hoax”

News of an alleged person recently went around the world cyber attack DDoS (Distributed Denial of Service) implemented by a group of computer hackers who would three million “smart” electric toothbrushes hacked capable of connecting via Bluetooth to smartphones. There fake news was initially reported by the Swiss newspaper Aargauer Zeitung starting from statements by a manager of the IT security company Fortinet, and then taken up by various other newspapers. According to these media, the hackers installed some malware in electric toothbrushes, which would have connected to the company’s website in order to block it, thus creating a botnet (a network of hacked devices) which would have perpetrated the DDoS attack.

You won’t be surprised to find out that none of this happened: it’s just a hoax. Even though it’s news patently implausibleHowever, there were many who believed in it and helped spread it, also thanks to various newspapers that gave it life. The question is therefore: how did such far-fetched news become so popular? Here is an excuse to shed light on what are the aspects that make fake news like this credible, in order to help us recognize them and avoid spread misinformation.

Hacked toothbrushes and elements of the “perfect hoax”

First of all, can you hack an electronic toothbrush? The answer is yes, but the most you can get from a toothbrush that you have managed to hack is to turn it on/off and change its speed. Since the vast majority of electric toothbrushes don’t connect directly to the Internetbut they simply establish a wireless connection with the smartphone using the Bluetooth technologyso they cannot connect to websites.

It would have been enough to be aware of this technical detail not to believe in the alleged DDoS attack perpetrated by a phantom army of millions of toothbrushes used to mass visit the website of a company in Switzerland to “knock it down”. Detail that was ignored and which gave rise to one of the most sensational fake news of recent years due to the presence of all the elements of the “perfect hoax”.

  1. Leverage up emotions that are part of the human sphere (in this case curiosity And fear towards cyber attacks).
  2. The protagonist of the hoax is a object of common usewhich we all use every day (in this case the toothbrush), thus making the news Interesting And captivating.
  3. The reported facts appeared to come from apparently reliable sources (i.e. some Swiss media).
  4. The news was, journalistically speaking, palatable And salable (an article entitled “Millions of toothbrushes hacked and used to attack So-and-So’s website” pushes users to open it, bringing a lot of revenue to information sites).


Why today it is easier to believe fake news: the risks of AI

The story we have reported to you raises considerable concern regarding the phenomenon of fake news, especially if we relate it to the historical period we are experiencing from a social and technological point of view. The advent of artificial intelligence, in fact, could potentially favor the proliferation of fake news, for example with the publication of fake images and videos.

Defending yourself from hoaxes will be increasingly difficult, but not impossible. Develop your own critical thinking skills and especially, check the sourcesperhaps checking several to try to understand how things really are in relation to a certain fact, are certainly behaviors that can help recognize fake news.