Someone Could Be Tracking Your Child Through Toys
Cybersecurity experts warn that so-called 'smart' toys could be hacked.
I hate to be a Grinch, but if you bought one of those toys with cool technology, you might want to stash it in the trash before your kid gets to it on Christmas morning.
An article in today’s NYT by Sheera Frenkel (https://www.nytimes.com/2017/12/21/technology/connected-toys-hacking.html) says popular toys like the cute Furby Connect, My Friend Cayla and other “smart” toys are perfect targets for hackers. Frenkel also lists a “smart watch for kids and a droid from the recent ‘Star Wars’ movies as potential problems for parents. In fact, Frenkel reports that Germany labeled Cayla as “an illegal espionage apparatus” and suggests that parents destroy it.
Can you imagine hackers taking over your child’s doll via the microphone and camera so that while your child is gazing into her new friend’s eyes, hackers are monitoring everything your child says and does? Frenkel writes, “according to cybersecurity experts, the toys can be turned to spy on little ones or to track their location.”
Apparently, even though companies say they are taking steps to make the toys secure, experts dispute this and say that “many of the products did not take basic steps to ensure their communications were secure and that a child’s information would be protected.”
Furby Connect’s Bluetooth feature allows “anyone within 100 feet of the doll to hijack the connection and use it to turn on the microphone and speak to children.”
Now, when I read this, I couldn’t help thinking that some clever parents could hijack their kid’s Furby and make him say things like, “Time to brush your teeth,” or “Hey, let’s go to bed! Won’t that be fun!” But the idea of some stranger tapping in to say something like “Take me to the park. Meet you at the backdoor” is pretty creepy.
And that smart watch for kids I mentioned earlier? It’s super smart when it comes to criminal activity. The article says that it’s marketed so parents can “easily communicate with and keep track of their kids, …[however] bugs in the watch would allow hackers to ‘intercept all communications, remotely listen to the child’s surroundings and spoof the child’s location,’ according to a report by Top10VPN, a consumer research company this month.” Really, does anyone else find it odd that parents need a watch to keep in touch with a child? I’m assuming children who want this watch are probably younger than age 12, so wouldn’t a parent know where they are anyway? Oh, but, there’s marketing…
A BB-8 droid toy also has an insecure Bluetooth.
If you want to look at the FBI’s warning about such toys, go here: https://www.ic3.gov/media/2017/170717.aspx
In the meantime, maybe it would be better to do what child development experts say and go with toys that run under kid power. A child’s imagination can make a doll speak, anthropomorphize a stuffed animal or turn a broken wristwatch into a communication tool with space aliens. I call these “smart toys.”