Expert: Smart toys come with cybersecurity risk
Decades ago, a sled was considered a “hot” Christmas toy. But, in today’s brave new world, almost all of our kids’ must-have items are smart toys that have wi-fi capabilities and other so-called “smart” functions. That makes for a fun and interactive gift—but it also has hidden dangers, says Karl Volkman, tech expert and CTO of SRV Network, Inc.
“Most of us would never dream of giving our young children unfettered access to the Internet,” says Volkman, “And we almost all have parental controls on the ‘bad’ channels on T.V. But then we don’t really think twice when it comes to handing over these high-tech gifts to our kids on Christmas Day.”
In fact, says Volkman, many of the smart toys on kids’ Christmas lists could be dangerous, including Hello Barbie, Furby Connect, i-Que Intelligent Robot, Cloud Pets and Toy-Fi teddy.
“Any ‘connected’ toy is going to come with a cyber security risk,” says Volkman. “Not only does this mean that a person can access the information that your child puts into the toy, but in some cases, they can even use the toy to speak to the child! For example, any person within 30 feet of the i-Que Intelligent Robot can send a mobile message to the robot. Other people have found that their child’s Cloud Pet can be hacked by anyone close enough to access the Bluetooth connection.”
Other toys like real-time quadcopters allow kids to take photo or video from their flying device. “It’s a really cool toy, and kids love them,” says Volkman. “But again, hackers are a concern. You don’t want your personal information anywhere near a toy that has a weak firewall or children at the helm.”
Volkman’s advice? “Don’t give toys that have wi-fi capabilities to other people’s kids,” he says, “It’s not worth the hassle or the headache. If it is your own child, proceed with caution and make sure you do all your research and due diligence. If you do buy these toys, you need to make sure that you take all precautions to keep your kids safe, such as reminding them not to give personal information about their address, school, etc. to the toy.”
He finishes: “Personally, I think sleds are still pretty cool toys.”