The sensors, microphones, data storage capabilities, cameras and other features of Internet of Things (IoT) toys are able to vacuum up extensive details about a child’s name, school, activities and even their physical location.
And if those toys are hacked, criminals could use the stolen information to harm a child, the FBI warned.
What Makes IoT Toys Vulnerable?
Data collected from interactions or conversations between children and toys are typically sent and stored by the manufacturer or developer via a server or a cloud service. In some cases, data are also collected by third party companies that manage the voice recognition software used in the toys.
Voice recordings, toy Web application passwords, home addresses, WiFi information, and sensitive personal data could be exposed if the security of the data is not sufficiently protected with the proper use of digital certificates and encryption when it is being transmitted or stored.
Smart toys connect to the Internet either directly, through WiFi to an Internet connected wireless access point; or indirectly, via Bluetooth to an Android or iOS device that is connected to the Internet.
Key factors affecting the user’s security include: the cyber security features, the toy’s partner applications and the WiFi network through which the toy connects.
Superior communications connections - where data is encrypted between the toy, WiFi access points, and Internet servers that store data or interact with the toy - are crucial to mitigate the risk of hackers exploiting the toy or eavesdropping on conversations or audio messages.
The FBI notes that Bluetooth connected toys that do not have authentication requirements (such as PINs or passwords) pose risks for unauthorized access, enabling criminals to communicate with children.
What You Can Do To Protect Your Child
- Choose IoT toys very carefully by doing lots of research. Look for any known reported security issues regarding a toy.
- Find out if a toy can receive firmware or software updates and security patches - and ensure the toy is running on the latest version.
- Closely monitor your child’s activities with each toy through the toy’s parent application, if such a capability exists.
- Ensure the toy is turned off when it is not in use.
- Create a strong and unique login password when establishing a user account. For extra strong passwords, use lower and upper case letters, numbers and special characters.
- Provide only what is minimally required for creating a user account.