Hacker Bypasses GE's Ridiculous Refrigerator DRM

The technique allows you to use 'unauthorized' water filters, which cost a quarter as much as GE's official filters.
June 12, 2020, 12:11pm
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Image: gefiltergate.com

Earlier this year, we brought you the sordid tale of the GE refrigerator that won’t dispense filtered water unless consumers pay extra for “official” filters from the company. This sort of digital rights management and artificial, software-enforced monopoly is a scourge on consumer rights. Now, finally, a fed up customer has found a way to bypass GE’s refrigerator DRM, and has posted instructions online.

The anonymous person registered a website called gefiltergate.com, and explained that by swapping the RFID tag from an official GE refrigerator to a third-party filter they bought on Amazon, they can get the refrigerator to continue filtering water as normal. For reference, third-party filters cost as little as $13; GE filters cost $55. I’m gonna go ahead and call this a “hack,” because they’re bypassing an artificial software lock to circumvent DRM, which is, at least in spirit, a hack, and a cool one at that. The hack was also done by Jack Busch over at GroovyPost last month.

“Have you ever pissed off a customer so much they bought a domain and stood up a website to shit on your asinine and boneheaded business practices? GE just did,” the anonymous hacker wrote. “What gives? Well some asshole at GE thought it would be a good idea to include a fucking RFID DRM module in select refrigerators.”

To make your fridge use “unauthorized” filters, you need to take the old filter out, flip it over, and carefully remove the RFID chip. This chip tells the fridge that it’s a “real” filter. This chip is glued down, and the person on gefiltergate suggested that rather than try to pry it up, you can simply cut around it with a Dremel or a saw. They then taped the RFID chip to the circuit board that checks whether a filter is authorized. This then allows them to use third-party filters, no problem. As Busch explains in his blog post, the refrigerator will say “not filtering,” but it will dispense water that goes through the new filter, so it does indeed work.

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