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IoT garage door opener disabled over bad review, then re-enabled after backlash

Apr 05, 20174 mins
Data and Information SecurityInternetInternet of Things

Garadget, maker of an IoT garage door opener, disabled a customer's door opener over a bad review, then reversed the decision after viral backlash

When you take a chance and buy internet of insecure things devices, you already have to accept apps that have crazy overreaching permissions if you want your smart devices to work—and hope any vulnerabilities discovered will be patched. But should you have to worry about ticking off the device maker and having your device remotely disabled?

There are all kinds of services and products that do not offer customer support on a Saturday night, which is frustrating when something goes wrong over the weekend and you need help. In the case of IoT garage door opener Garadget, unhappy customer Robert Martin wrote on a Garadget support thread:

Just installed and attempting to register a door when the app started doing this. Have uninstalled and reinstalled iphone app, powered phone off/on – wondering what kind of piece of sh*t I just purchased here…

Martin also left a 1-star review on Amazon where Garadget sells for $99. He wrote:

Junk – DO NOT WASTE YOUR MONEY – iPhone app is a piece of junk, crashes constantly, start-up company that obviously has not performed proper quality assurance tests on their products.

Denis Grisak, the founder of Garadget, apparently got his knickers in a twist. He was so unhappy with the unhappy customer that he remotely disabled the device by denying it connectivity with the server. Grisak replied to Martin on the support thread:

The abusive language here and in your negative Amazon review, submitted minutes after experiencing a technical difficulty, only demonstrates your poor impulse control. I’m happy to provide the technical support to the customers on my Saturday night but I’m not going to tolerate any tantrums.

At this time your only option is return Garadget to Amazon for refund. Your unit ID 2f0036… will be denied server connection.

Two impulse control wrongs don’t make a right, as the situation hit the fan on the internet and went viral.

The “bricking” of the smart garage door opener reminded some people of when Nest discontinued Revolv a year ago. The company decided to brick working Revolv smart home hubs, which consumers bought with a “lifetime subscription.” The backlash resulted in Nest offering compensation to affected customers.

The Garadget gaffe also resulted in significant backlash. There was no bricking from Grisak’s point of view. He wrote, “Technically there is no bricking, though. No changes are made to the hardware or the firmware of the device, just denied use of company servers.”

Grisak tried to make amends, adding on the support thread:

Ok, calm down everybody. Save your pitchforks and torches for your elected representatives. This only lacks the death threats now.

The firing of the customer was never about the Amazon review, just wanted to distance from the toxic individual ASAP. Admittedly not a slickest PR move on my part. Access restored, note taken.

Grisak referenced the Streisand effect and the time when Elon Musk had his feelings hurt and denied Tesla service to a blogger.

In September 2015, after Musk showed up nearly two hours late to a Tesla Model X launch event, venture capital investor Stewart Alsop took to Medium to tell Musk that he “should be ashamed.” Alsop suggested that Musk should have “showed some class and apologized to the people who believe in this product.”

Instead, Musk canceled Alsop’s Model X order. In the banned by Tesla follow-up post, Alsop wrote, “When I wrote a blog post about my BMW X1 called ‘My Car Makes Me Feel Stoopid’, the CEO of BMW didn’t take the car back.”

Yet Musk didn’t seem to think the ban was uncalled for, tweeting, “Must be a slow news day if denying service to a super rude customer gets this much attention.”

Grisak, too, surely hopes the whole situation will die down, but that isn’t likely to happen soon, as people continue to debate if the vendor or customer were right.

ms smith

Ms. Smith (not her real name) is a freelance writer and programmer with a special and somewhat personal interest in IT privacy and security issues. She focuses on the unique challenges of maintaining privacy and security, both for individuals and enterprises. She has worked as a journalist and has also penned many technical papers and guides covering various technologies. Smith is herself a self-described privacy and security freak.