Dangers of connected toys for the holiday season

By December 15, 2015 Article, Security

When we were kids, technology at home to play with was an exciting novelty, but these days, parents without kid-friendly tech are pretty rare. Tablets for infants, dolls with conversational skills, droids — as exciting as these products are, they open up an opportunity for hackers to gain access to your information.

Cyber security has become a common news topic for businesses, but children are a new, particularly vulnerable target. Here’s how you can stay “cyber aware” this holiday season.

“Hello Barbie” uses artificial intelligence (I bet you never thought you’d hear “Barbie” and “artificial intelligence” used together) to carry on real-time conversations with children. Though Mattel has gone to great lengths protecting the doll from hackers, they also acknowledge in their privacy policy that they cannot guarantee the safety of your information. In addition, one researcher claims to have found a security hole in the toy. Imagine the intimate data, such as personal information a hacker could get if they could listen in on your child’s conversations with this toy.

VTech, a Hong Kong-based company that sells digital learning toys, faced a recent toy breach when a hacker stole data from millions of customer accounts worldwide. Stolen data included names, kids’ birth dates, mailing addresses, email addresses, passwords, secret questions and answers for password retrieval, IP addresses, and more. (Digital children’s toys store a lot of data.)

  • Good News — Credit cards and social security numbers weren’t stolen.
  • Bad News — Hackers can now potentially reset passwords or gain access to other accounts (like bank accounts), because many people reuse usernames and passwords.

Sadly, security guarding kid technology isn’t always the best, but we also have a disconnect in our thinking. No one worries about having top-of-the-line tech security protect a Barbie doll, but in reality, any toy that connects to the Internet provides an entrance for hackers.

As a consumer this holiday season, make sure that if you get a toy that collects personal data and connects to the Internet, you also look carefully at the toy’s tech security practices.