Smart toys – friend or foe ?

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A few weeks ago, the Cayla doll was getting a lot of attention because of its security risks and shorty thereafter we’ve seen news about smart teddy bears who’s data was compromised by hackers.

We are talking about 800,000 user accounts for which the hackers have asked for ransom. Apparently, nobody would have thought that someone might be motivated to steal these accounts, but guess what, it happened.

The Cayla dolls have a microphone and Bluetooth connectivity and if a kid asks a question, the dolls can go online to search for the answer. The teddy bears developed by CloudPets allow parents to talk to their children when they are at work or whatever. Everything’s great, but the messages along with sensitive information were stored in an unprotected data base.

Actually, these are not the first security problems the smart toys have dealt with. Back in 2015, a researcher from the United States proved that the Wi-Fi network of the house can be accessed using a Hello Barbie doll.

The truth is that we’re living in a super connected word. We have constant internet connection on our phones, watches, at home. At home we have devices that go online such as Smart TVs, alarm systems, baby monitors. Even in the kitchen we have smart refrigerators, smart espresso maker, we have even smart washing machines and smart cars! Accessories manufacturers are also trying to keep up with the trend and they’re building smartwatches and smart fitness bracelets. We are super connected, indeed.

“Smart” is the magic word that companies are using to sell us just about everything. Companies are releasing “smart” products like crazy and consumers are buying them without actually spending the time thinking if they really need a device or not.

But let’s not go off topic and ask ourselves: are smart toys a must have ? We get that parents can’t spend all of their time with their children, they’re trying to compensate or they are trying to make things easier with the help of technology. However, these smart toys come with serious security risks and everything can be compromised by hackers. Hackers can even compromise your home network with the help of such a smart toy.

Until manufacturers will pay more attention to security when building smart toys, parents should think twice before buying such a toy.

Firstly, parents who decide it’s worth buying a smart toy should research the specific toy on the internet to see if there are known security risks and if the company responsible has fixed the problems fast or not.

Secondly, parents should check which information the smart toy sends back to the manufacturer and if this can be stopped. How will be information be stored ? Is the info going to be sent to a third party also ? if your information is being sent to multiple sources, the security risks are increasing.

If a smart toy requests you create an online account for your child, you as a parent should consider using fake data, if not to keep your child’s data private at least to get rid for unsolicited advertising.

Have you ever considered purchasing smart toys for your children ?

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