We have been dealing with DRM (Digital Rights Management) seemingly forever, which restricts the use of propriety hardware, software, and copyrighted works. In other words, it prevents the intellectual property from being copied freely, even though we have paid for whatever technology that may be. Beyond copying CDs, DVDs, video games, and movies, it seems smart appliances are also afflicted with DRM. In this case, GE has incorporated DRM into its refrigerator product line, which will only accept the company’s specific water filters and not from an outside manufacturer.
Case in point: Editor and technical writer John Busch bought a brand-new GE Café fridge (model #CFE28TSHSS), complete with French doors, pull-out bottom freezer, and what he states “an unnecessary touch screen on the front.” Not long after, he received an email from GE indicating that the RPWFE water filter needed replacing, and it was an offer he couldn’t refuse. He would have to replace the filter every six months using only GE’s RPWFE filters; otherwise, it wouldn’t filter water. That’s $50 every six months as opposed to a $13 filter from a different manufacturer.
While GE does provide a dummy filter replacement, it will only allow users access to unfiltered water, so Busch did the only thing he could do- hack the filter. Specifically, he removed the RFID chip from the GE branded filter and taped it to a less expensive model. The trick here is to line the chip up just right so that the reader can read it. He also states that users could tape it directly to the reader as well (again, needing a little finesse), making sure that the chip is oriented in the right direction. While it’s not the most elegant of hacks, it does the job and defeats GE’s DRM.