Your washing machine could be sending 3.7 GB of data a day — LG washing machine owner disconnected his device from Wi-Fi after noticing excessive outgoing daily data traffic

LG washing machine data usage
LG washing machine data usage (Image credit: Johnie/X)

An LG washing machine owner and self-confessed fintech geek has asked the Twitterverse why his smart home appliance ate an average of 3.66GB of data daily. Concerned about the washer’s internet addiction, Johnie forced the device to go cold turkey and blocked it using his router UI. Had the LG washer been hacked, hijacked, or otherwise tampered with over the net – or is this the average data consumption for a modern smart appliance?

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Social media fans were eager to contribute to the detective work, sniffing out why the LG washing machine might be data-thirsty. Johnie’s initial screenshot showed that on a chosen day, the device uploaded 3.57GB and downloaded about 100MB, and the data traffic was almost constant. Meanwhile, according to the Asus router interface screenshot, the washing machine accounted for just shy of 5% of Johnie’s internet traffic daily.

Was the device downloading DLCs or the victim of a hack?

The LG washing machine owner saw the fun in his predicament and joked that the device might use Wi-Fi for “DLCs (Downloadable Laundry Cycles).” He wasn’t entirely kidding: The machine does download presets for various types of apparel. However, the lion’s share of the data transferred was uploaded.

Working through the thread, we note that Johnie also pondered the possibility of someone using his washing machine for crypto mining. “I’d gladly rent our LPU (Laundry Processing Unit) by the hour,” he quipped. Again, there was the glimmer of a possibility that there could be truth behind this joke. Another social media user highlighted a history of hackers taking over LG smart-connected appliances. The SmartThinQ home appliances HomeHack vulnerability was patched several weeks after being made public. A similar modern hack might use the washing machine’s computer resources as part of a botnet. Taking control of an LG washing machine as part of a large botnet for cryptocurrency mining or nefarious networking purposes wouldn’t be as far-fetched as it sounds. Large numbers of relatively low-power devices can be formidable together.

One of the more innocent theories regarding the significant data uploads suggested laundry data was being uploaded to LG so it could improve its LLM (Large Laundry Model). It sought to do this to prepare for the launch of its latest “AI washer-dryer combo” at CES, joked Johnie.

An Asus router issue?

For now, it looks like the favored answer to the data mystery is to blame Asus for misreporting it. We may never know what happened with Johnie, who is now running his LG washing machine offline. LG did not immediately reply to a request by Tom's Hardware for more information.

Another relatively innocent reason for the supposed high volume of uploads could be an error in the Asus router firmware. In a follow-up post a day after his initial Tweet, Johnie noted “inaccuracy in the ASUS router tool,” with regard to Apple iMessage data use.  Other LG smart washing machine users showed device data use from their router UIs. It turns out that these appliances more typically use less than 1MB per day.

The real dangers of connected device hacking

Though Johnie’s Tweets were relatively light-hearted, hacking smart connected devices can be severe. Consider what could happen if medical or industrial IoT devices get taken over by attackers, for example. A case in point is provided by a story from earlier this week when Bosch network-connected wrenches used in factories all around the world were found to be riddled with vulnerabilities.

Researchers highlighted that the cordless industrial wrenches could be hit by exploits or ransomware – with the threat of turning off the wrenches en masse. The wrenches could even be secretly readjusted to make things they were used to construct a danger to their users – through applying incorrect torque. Patches are due soon.

Mark Tyson
Freelance News Writer

Mark Tyson is a Freelance News Writer at Tom's Hardware US. He enjoys covering the full breadth of PC tech; from business and semiconductor design to products approaching the edge of reason.

  • hotaru251
    This is just proof of why some devices should not be "smart" and stay dumb :|
    Reply
  • Neilbob
    Stuff like this really does make me feel like a complete dinosaur.

    The very idea of a 'smart' appliance is just totally weird to me. I mean, you still have to be there to put the damn laundry in the machine... or does the washing machine climb on to some sort of feet and do it by itself? And I assume it must also supply itself with the relevant detergents and softeners too.

    When it's finished does the door fly open and send the laundry shooting across the room into the dryer or on to a clothes line outside? Does it know when it's raining so as not to do that...?

    So many questions clog my brain.

    Edit: while I'm thinking about it, perhaps try switching it off or removing the plug from the mains when not in use or something. Can't imagine it needs 24 hours to perform a full cycle...

    Edit Edit: or would doing something like that be considered too smart? (I'm really going off on one now).
    Reply
  • stonecarver
    The only smart thing I ever simi approved was the buzz when the microwave was done. I have now a few years back modded my microwave , took the top off found the evil buzzer and removed it. If I can't remember I warmed up my coffee than that's on me.
    Reply
  • BX4096
    hotaru251 said:
    This is just proof of why some devices should not be "smart" and stay dumb :|
    Until that happens, their buyers seem more than happy to step in and fill that role.
    Reply
  • tazzmonster
    Neilbob said:
    Stuff like this really does make me feel like a complete dinosaur.

    The very idea of a 'smart' appliance is just totally weird to me. I mean, you still have to be there to put the damn laundry in the machine... or does the washing machine climb on to some sort of feet and do it by itself? And I assume it must also supply itself with the relevant detergents and softeners too.

    When it's finished does the door fly open and send the laundry shooting across the room into the dryer or on to a clothes line outside? Does it know when it's raining so as not to do that...?

    So many questions clog my brain.

    Edit: while I'm thinking about it, perhaps try switching it off or removing the plug from the mains when not in use or something. Can't imagine it needs 24 hours to perform a full cycle...

    Edit Edit: or would doing something like that be considered too smart? (I'm really going off on one now).
    We have an LG smart washer/dryer. It's nice to get the notification when the washer or dryer is done on my phone since they are in a back room and not audible from the other living spaces. There are also a number of diagnostics that can be run on them from my phone as well.
    Reply
  • Alvar "Miles" Udell
    The LG washing machine owner saw the fun in his predicament and joked that the device might use Wi-Fi for “DLCs (Downloadable Laundry Cycles).”

    I wouldn't even joke about that. With garbage like printer ink subscriptions I would not put it past LG, Samsung, and other "smart appliance" manufactures to start doing laundry or dishwasher detergent subscriptions, refrigerator filter subscriptions, and even prevent the use of "non approved" detergents the way HP does with their printers.
    Reply
  • evdjj3j
    Wouldn't a better less clickbaity title have been?

    Asus router incorrectly reports the amount of data sent and received
    Reply
  • thestryker
    The thing that annoys me most about the smart appliances is that the vast majority of their good features don't actually need an internet connection just a local network connection, but that's not how they're designed and if you isolate them a lot of the time the features don't work.
    Reply
  • USAFRet
    The other problem with these IoT things is when their database gets hacked, and your personal info is leaked.

    Along with trivially lax security in the apps. Default developer and admin passwords left in there, which you, the poor user, do not know nor can turn off.

    The "S" in IoT stands for Security.
    Reply
  • PEnns
    "...self-confessed fintech geek"

    In other words, a technical rube connects his washing machine (!!) to the internet and now wonders about the strange things that are going on.

    Asus router's fault or not, why should a washing machine be connected to the internet and how did people wash their undies the last few hundred years without such craziness and survive the non-connected consequences???

    How did people solve the amazing conundrum like when the machine was done / needed detergent and other rocket science issues before??
    Reply