You may have read labels on toys prompting them to be dangerous or a choking hazard. However, this article is not about those toys, it’s about something more sinister. As tech trends further evolves, children toys are becoming interconnected with the online world. Just last week, a toy company called VTech was hacked. One of their toy products that let kids connect with parents and download content was intercepted by hackers. However, the hackers were mainly concerned for the wellbeing of the children, and wanted to expose VTech for their bad security practices.
During the initial hack, hackers were able to collect information such as names, mailing addresses, emails and other personal information. In regards to the actual numbers of people affected, nearly 6,368,509 devices were hacked. The children were mainly in the U.S and a few in Europe.
Out of this hacking incident, the consumers won out and companies like VTech were exposed. Now companies like VTech will have to invest more into developing securer toys, in order to prevent an actual hacking incident. Accordingly, VTech has hired an external security consultancy to look into making their toys completely secure. That’s because, when it comes down to children’s privacy, toy companies cannot afford to slack around or get sloppy with security.
In the worst case scenario, if it would come down to it, information on your kids could be sold to pedophiles on the dark web, using that information, pedophiles could possibly choose your kids and win their trust using social engineering. To make matters worse, if they have your home address, they could possibly stalk your kids in your own home.
Lately, the latest toys have become more adult orientated. Toys that mimic adult tools such as laptops, smartphones and similar devices have become popular amongst children. Thus, the chance of these devices being hacked is far greater.
Another toy, hello Barbie is the latest craze to hit the girls’ toys market. It works by connecting to WIFI and has a similar functionality like SIRI. Children can conduct conversation with the doll, and it responds by intelligently answering their questions. Basically, Barbie processes the questions by sending it to its main server which acts as an AI server, processing the information that sends out an answer straight from Barbie’s mouth. With hackers now having the option to intercept children’s toys, pedophiles could easily hold a conversation with your kid – using toys such as hello Barbie.
Connected toys can allow kids to learn and explore new things. However, for internet connected toys to be beneficial, they should be secure. Manufacturers, on the other hand, have been careless and could care little about the security of their consumers – after all there’s money to be made with smart toys. Luckily, ethical hackers are quick to expose their shortcomings and their role in securing children’s toys will be paramount.
When making a purchasing decision, parents only view the benefits of smart toys, without ever considering the risks they pose. In the future, when more and more toys will be connected, parents will need to be vigilant more than ever before.