At least eight Lime e-scooters have been pulled from the streets of Brisbane this week after they were hacked to say sexual and otherwise offensive things. Lime calls the hack “disappointing”.
“OK, if you’re going to ride my arse then please pull my hair, OK?” one of the scooters said after being unlocked, according to a video posted on YouTube.
“Don’t take me around, because I don’t like to be ridden,” another scooter can be heard saying in a different video published online.
Video taken by Channel Seven and posted to Twitter shows an entire row of scooters shouting hacked messages, some of which are difficult to decipher since they’re all speaking at once.
— 7NEWS Brisbane (@7NewsBrisbane) April 22, 2019
When customers ended a ride with the hacked scooters, the voice box said, “No, where you go?” according to yet another video posted before Lime learned about the hack.
Lime isn’t happy.
“We are aware that eight Lime scooters in Brisbane have had their audio files changed by vandals recording over the existing audio file with inappropriate and offensive speech,” Nelson Savanh, Lime’s public affairs manager for Queensland, told the Brisbane Times.
“It’s not smart, it’s not funny and is akin to changing a ringtone,” Savanh said.
Lime scooters are still operating under a trial basis in Brisbane, where the international scooter company has faced plenty of hurdles already. Back in January, the wheels of Lime scooters in the Brisbane area were locking up and sending users flying over the handlebars. Some users even broke bones and required stitches until a software update fixed the problem.
And while this was just audio files, there have been concerns about scooter hacks that might be more dangerous. Researchers at the security firm Zimperium recently demonstrated that they could force a scooter to accelerate and brake by using a Bluetooth-enabled app from up to 100m away. But Lime doesn’t operate the scooter model that was used in Zimperium’s hack demonstration.
Users are hacking scooters around the world to max out their speed and get free rides. But other people are simply interested in adding a little chaos to the world. People have been placing stickers over the QR codes used to start a ride, smashed the scooters in the street, and sometimes simply set them on fire.
All things considered, perhaps Lime is rather lucky that the people of Brisbane are only hacking the audio of their scooters right now. Given what the Americans are doing with them, things could be much, much worse.