CYBER SECURITY FEATURE: Parents, guardians be aware of the dangers of Smart Toys

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Today we’re going to explore the dangers and potential risk exposure to children as far as Smart Toys are concerned. If you’re a parent listen up! You need to be aware of this.

Smart Toys, alternatively known as ‘connected’ toys, are devices that can be used for play but they also connect to the Internet, Bluetooth and the likes. They are distinctive in that they offer the capability to connect to the outside world. Smart toys are far from traditional and are not anything like what most of us were aware of when growing up.

The closest thing I had to one of these types of toys was an unco-operative Furbie which I was terrified of.

At first glance, internet-connected dolls, robots or other smart playthings that can interact with your children may sound class. But, the reality is that beneath the surface of these toys there is a lot going on that could put your child and your family’s privacy at risk

Connected toys often come packaged with microphones and cameras. They have embedded technology that collects information about your children to enhance their play-time experience and build ‘friendships.’ However, once these are connected to the internet - such information becomes a target. That’s when these toys go from class to creepy.

Microphone input, GPS data and information entered directly into some of these internet devices can infringe on privacy rights, violate consumer protection laws and pose serious threats to the safety of our little people.

Cybersecurity experts have found that smart toys, in particular, are vulnerable to cyberattacks. Unlike smart home devices, phones and computers, these toys lack sophisticated security mechanisms.

This time last year, Germany issued a ‘Kill Order’ for ‘My Friend Cayla’ (an interactive doll) over surveillance concerns. The doll was found to be a domestic spy and her destruction was ordered by German authorities. Cayla was given the death sentence and branded as an illegal espionage apparatus.

Researchers said adversaries could use an unsecure Bluetooth device embedded in the toy to listen and talk to the child playing with it. Furthermore, a hack allowing strangers to speak directly to children via the ‘My Friend Cayla’ doll was demonstrated.

What’s more, Germany’s telecommunications regulator warned that parents who don’t destroy their Cayla dolls could face a hefty fine for incompliance with the ‘Kill Order.’

I have the most beautiful wee God-daughter and the notion that some questionable character could potentially spy on her through an innocent looking doll makes venom run through my veins. It would almost make one want to hunt the culprit down, skin them alive and wear them as a coat. I don’t even want to contemplate what her mum would want to do . . . or any parent for that matter!

Another is example is ‘CloudPets,’ a connected stuffed animal that allowed loved ones to record a voice message on the accompanying mobile app and send it to a teddy bear. The concept is innocent and its functionality is very attractive. But it wasn’t long before the underlying ‘CloudPets’ database started to leak information. Information that included numerous audio recordings uploaded by users both young and old and profile pictures of children. The database included direct links to the recordings. Anyone who saw the data could download a child’s audio files and there was no way of telling how many people had done that

There are hackers and then there are sewer rats that purposely target children’s smart toys. These are very different categories of people.

The FBI issued a warning on this topic: “The potential misuse of sensitive data such as GPS location information, visual identifiers from pictures or videos, and known interests to garner trust from a child could present exploitation risks,” the release states.

A more connected childhood means that younger generations have access to all portions of the internet good and bad and it’s become increasingly difficult for parents to understand the capability of such devices and how they should be secured.

Another popular hideout for kids these days is YouTube, with many aspiring to be a ‘YouTube Creator.’ In fact, I know a very talented YouTube star, the most precious wee human who spends her days creating content for her much loved channel and all it would take is one negative comment from a troll to drive a parent to arson.

We can’t ignore the fact that such platforms expose children to the outside world and whilst there are many good uses for smart toys, like most things they have a dark side. We all want our children to pursue their dreams and enjoy their play time but we must ensure that they are protected as best as possible, and a big part of that is understanding risks associated with Smart Toys and platforms such as YouTube.

Cyber security must be a priority and the secure setup of such devices should be evaluated prior to introducing smart, interactive, internet-connected toys into family homes or trusted environments.

Allstate; a company based in Derry, has formalized a Cyber Safety program for school children in the area. The program aims to address the growing concern for not only parents but teachers as well, crafted specifically to help answer the question: “How do we protect children from the dangers of internet use?”

Allstate Cyber Safety teaches kids about cyber bullying and how to identify threats. The program’s mission is to help every child exercise ‘Cyber Safety’ and helps equip youngsters with the tools and knowledge they need to stay safe online.

If you would like Allstate to visit your school you can send an email expressing your interest to AllstateCyberSafetyNI@allstate.com

CYBER SECURITY FEATURE: Parents, guardians be aware of the dangers of Smart Toys

Today we’re going to explore the dangers and potential risk exposure to children as far aas Smart Toys are concerned. If you’re a parent listen up! You need to be aware of this . . .

Smart Toys, alternatively known as ‘connected’ toys, are devices that can be used for play but they also connect to the Internet, Bluetooth and the likes. They are distinctive in that they offer the capability to connect to the outside world. Smart toys are far from traditional and are not anything like what most of us were aware of when growing up.

The closest thing I had to one of these types of toys was an unco-operative Furbie which I was terrified of.

At first glance, internet-connected dolls, robots or other smart playthings that can interact with your children may sound class. But, the reality is that beneath the surface of these toys there is a lot going on that could put your child and your family’s privacy at risk

Connected toys often come packaged with microphones and cameras. They have embedded technology that collects information about your children to enhance their play-time experience and build ‘friendships.’ However, once these are connected to the internet - such information becomes a target. That’s when these toys go from class to creepy.

Microphone input, GPS data and information entered directly into some of these internet devices can infringe on privacy rights, violate consumer protection laws and pose serious threats to the safety of our little people.

Cybersecurity experts have found that smart toys, in particular, are vulnerable to cyberattacks. Unlike smart home devices, phones and computers, these toys lack sophisticated security mechanisms.

This time last year, Germany issued a ‘Kill Order’ for ‘My Friend Cayla’ (an interactive doll) over surveillance concerns. The doll was found to be a domestic spy and her destruction was ordered by German authorities. Cayla was given the death sentence and branded as an illegal espionage apparatus.

Researchers said adversaries could use an unsecure Bluetooth device embedded in the toy to listen and talk to the child playing with it. Furthermore, a hack allowing strangers to speak directly to children via the ‘My Friend Cayla’ doll was demonstrated.

What’s more, Germany’s telecommunications regulator warned that parents who don’t destroy their Cayla dolls could face a hefty fine for incompliance with the ‘Kill Order.’

I have the most beautiful wee God-daughter and the notion that some questionable character could potentially spy on her through an innocent looking doll makes venom run through my veins. It would almost make one want to hunt the culprit down, skin them alive and wear them as a coat. I don’t even want to contemplate what her mum would want to do . . . or any parent for that matter!

Another is example is ‘CloudPets,’ a connected stuffed animal that allowed loved ones to record a voice message on the accompanying mobile app and send it to a teddy bear. The concept is innocent and its functionality is very attractive. But it wasn’t long before the underlying ‘CloudPets’ database started to leak information. Information that included numerous audio recordings uploaded by users both young and old and profile pictures of children. The database included direct links to the recordings. Anyone who saw the data could download a child’s audio files and there was no way of telling how many people had done that

There are hackers and then there are sewer rats that purposely target children’s smart toys. These are very different categories of people.

The FBI issued a warning on this topic: “The potential misuse of sensitive data such as GPS location information, visual identifiers from pictures or videos, and known interests to garner trust from a child could present exploitation risks,” the release states.

A more connected childhood means that younger generations have access to all portions of the internet good and bad and it’s become increasingly difficult for parents to understand the capability of such devices and how they should be secured.

Another popular hideout for kids these days is YouTube, with many aspiring to be a ‘YouTube Creator.’ In fact, I know a very talented YouTube star, the most precious wee human who spends her days creating content for her much loved channel and all it would take is one negative comment from a troll to drive a parent to arson.

We can’t ignore the fact that such platforms expose children to the outside world and whilst there are many good uses for smart toys, like most things they have a dark side. We all want our children to pursue their dreams and enjoy their play time but we must ensure that they are protected as best as possible, and a big part of that is understanding risks associated with Smart Toys and platforms such as YouTube.

Cyber security must be a priority and the secure setup of such devices should be evaluated prior to introducing smart, interactive, internet-connected toys into family homes or trusted environments.

Allstate; a company based in Derry, has formalized a Cyber Safety program for school children in the area. The program aims to address the growing concern for not only parents but teachers as well, crafted specifically to help answer the question: “How do we protect children from the dangers of internet use?”

Allstate Cyber Safety teaches kids about cyber bullying and how to identify threats. The program’s mission is to help every child exercise ‘Cyber Safety’ and helps equip youngsters with the tools and knowledge they need to stay safe online.

If you would like Allstate to visit your school you can send an email expressing your interest to AllstateCyberSafetyNI@allstate.com