Have you ever been the victim of hacking or identity theft?
We all know the potential dangers, and so many people have had money or personal data stolen by hackers and cybercriminals. The loss of data can be particularly worrying for victims because it can potentially be used for all kinds of nefarious reasons.
Knowing that someone else has your data can leave you feeling vulnerable, but one Australian comedian was left feeling more vulnerable than most. Or was he?
It’s a bizarre story involving a comedian, a famous news organization, imaginary hackers, and a male chastity cage.
You may want to set your NSFW settings to “OFF” for this one.
What is the Background to the Story?
Founded in December 2013, Vice News is known for investigating some of the weirder and wackier stories that other news organisations overlook. A quick YouTube search throws up Vice’s investigations into Japanese sex doll funerals, flesh eating turtles in India, and python catching bounty hunters.
Australian comedian Lewis Spears decided to take advantage of Vice’s proclivity for the peculiar and use the news platform to promote his upcoming comedy shows. As Spears explained, “Vice love writing about three things; drugs, weird sex, and technology. For my fake story, (I combined) two of those things.”
How did the Prank Go Down?
First, Spears created a fake email address and matching social media profiles so that he could contact Vice incognito. Using his new persona of Sam Summers, Spears emailed Vice journalist Lorenzo Franceschi-Biccherai, telling him an incredible story about his internet connected male chastity device (or “cock cage” as they are also known) coming under the control of an online hacker. Spears explained to Franceschi-Biccherai that the hacker had demanded money or was threatening to keep it locked forever.
What Happened Next?
After some email exchanges, Franceschi-Biccherai asked for an interview, and the two met for a Zoom meeting. Spears explained to the journalist that he had been contacted by the hacker who had taken control of his Cellmate chastity cage after obtaining the password for the device by hacking Spears’s phone. He told the journalist that he had paid the original ransom but that the hacker had then demanded more money. According to Spears, it was at this point that he bought some bolt cutters and was able to cut the device off (very carefully!) During the course of the interview, Spears was even able to slip in the name of his upcoming show as well as its date and location without the journalist noticing.
What did Vice News Do?
As you have probably already guessed, the hard-hitting journalists at Vice ran Spears’ story without any further checks into its validity. Incredibly, the manufacturers of the Cellmate device even released a statement to the press a few weeks after explaining that they had looked into the story and had gone back to R&D to fix the vulnerabilities in the device’s cybersecurity!
Whilst this story may seem like the humorous exploits of a comedian, it is buried in some fact. The Cellmate device was actually already reported as having serious security flaws prior which had lead to a number of consumers and providers ceasing to stock these products. Chastity Cage online store chastitycage.com.au told reporters that seeing the potential risks with wearable technology like this, they decided not to stock the product and instead stick to traditional metal or plastic lockable chastity devices.
We all know that fake news can cause serious problems, especially with so many people willing to believe everything they read. One man’s imaginary cock cage cock and bull story may not be so important, but the ease with which he was able to trick a major news organization, should be of major concern. It just goes to show that it’s more important than ever for journalists and news organizations to check their sources and be extra careful about what they report.