When Toys Become Smarter with IoT: Let's Plan Ahead to Protect Kids

New generation toys have taken interactivity to the next level. Physical toys are now getting integrated with mobile apps. IoT is meshing the world of toys with the world of technology, and thereby reshaping the traditional toy industry.

IoT has revolutionized almost everything. Here are some predictions from analysts around the world –

“There will be ten connected devices in our homes by 2025 on average”. Gartner reports forecasts “6.4 billion connected things will be in use worldwide in 2016, growing to 20.8 billion by 2020. In 2016, 5.5 million new things will get connected every day”.

TechCrunch writer, Mark Canter wrote, “I see the IoT as the culmination of all modern technology that is finally uniting the online technological world and the real world.” It makes sense, as more and more objects are getting connected to the internet now, from sensors which tell when something goes wrong in your house like fire to toys that can interact with your kids.

Toys have really become magical now, it can help children learn ABCs and become online tutors who interact by video collaboration. It’s true that smart things not only makes our life safe and convenient but can also make you a subject for hackers. Many smart toys that kids have today are connected to the home network, hackers are waiting for entry doors to get into your home. So even when you set up a baby monitor to improve your baby’s safety - Ensure the security is in place, don’t let the hackers get into your home.

Smart Toys like Fisher Price Teddy Bear and Hello Barbie can actually listen and talk to children. But it can also expose the personal information of their owners.

According to research published back in January, a bug in the web platform of the Fisher Price Teddy Bear allowed hackers to extract personal information of all the children using the toy. The research clearly highlights the potential threats of so-called “smart” toys. Earlier privacy and security researchers have reported multiple flaws that turn the internet-connected smart toy - Hello Barbie doll into a surveillance device. If the hacker gets in control of a toy, he can have the access to mobile phones, computers, smart TVs – everything that is connected to your home network. You might think this as a far scenario, but not exactly you cannot always trust these devices.

There are several other examples of IoT breaches, one of the biggest was the VTech data breach, which exposed personal data of 12 million people. A 21-year-old was arrested for hacking personal data of 12 million people that include over 6 million minors. The stolen data contained names, photos, email address, passwords, profile information, children’s names, dates of birth, audio and video recording. VTech agreed that they were not using any SSL or encryption mechanism for children’s tablet. In every case, the privacy of children has been questioned.

And the hacker replied in Vice’s blog that “he did not hack to use or sell the data, but to show how easy it was to breach the Vtech system using a simple hacking technique called an SQL injection, in which hackers enter commands that prompt a database to expose its content”.

Such incidents can be a real nightmare, here we are looking at 6.4 million children being exposed. It's big time that we learn to start solving security issues by creating more security measures for toys and devices designed for children. Companies are already developing software’s to protect children online while law enforcement continues the efforts to jail hackers. But we need to be more vigilant to avoid breaches.

What can be done?

Dumbing smart toys seem to be the smartest choice for many people. But if in case you want to gift your kid a smart toy. Here are some security tips.

  • If Wi-Fi router permits you to set up a guest network then you can create and connect the smart toy with it. This will protect your other devices.
  • Be clear on what your smart toy is capable of and the information it is going to collect. Ensure that you are giving minimum information so that you won't get exposed even in the case of a hack.
  • Talk to your children about security. As I've heard people saying kids are smart and that they will understand what it means to be safe online.

Industries & toy makers can also come in to keep their little clients safe:

  • Digital toy makers can pledge for better data security.
  • Communication service providers should also extend an additional support for families having children.
  • More commitment across the ecosystem – devices, connectivity, sensors, cloud services, product evolution, data analytics all are valuable but nothing should compromise private data.
  • Ensure parents are having full control which you can already see with cable, digital TV, broadband, email, etc. For example, if there is a microphone or camera on a child’s tablet, parents should be able to lock it down.
  • Support for timely legislation that mandates security and protection before new products go to market.

It’s saddening that still we have to deal with these big breaches. And while moving ahead to a digitally connected toys world for kids, we need to work together to set standards. So that no family or kid will be under the radar of a hacker.

The thrilling aspect of today’s technology is that it make our lives enjoyable, healthy and interactive; at the same time, we need to ensure none of the positives are offset by “the dark side.”

When Toys Become Smarter with IoT: Let's Plan Ahead to Protect Kids was last modified: November 6th, 2019 by John Harris

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *