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Smart Toys Can Put Children's Safety at Risk FBI Warns

"Ensure the toy is turned off, particularly those with microphones and cameras, when not in use" - FBI.

The FBI's (Federal Bureau of Investigation) division Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) has made a public service announcement in regards to security and privacy protection by manufacturers of smart toys connected to the internet.

"The FBI encourages consumers to consider cyber security prior to introducing smart, interactive, internet-connected toys into their homes or trusted environments. Smart toys and entertainment devices for children are increasingly incorporating technologies that learn and tailor their behaviors based on user interactions. These toys typically contain sensors, microphones, cameras, data storage components, and other multimedia capabilities – including speech recognition and GPS options."

In some instances, toys with microphones can record and collect conversations within earshot of the device. Sensitive information such as the child's name, school, likes and dislikes, favorite activities and more that are discussed in daily life conversations with the toy or surrounding environment are harvested by the device. The toys ability to collect information on the child combined with GPS, visual identifiers from pictures and videos, known interests, and connection to the internet can be exploited to gather trust of a child which poses physical and privacy safety.

Every consumer that is planning on buying a child an Smart Toy must do their due diligence. Examine the toys company user agreement disclosures and privacy practices. Find out where your family's personal data is sent to and store, including if the information is sold to any third parties. Do your due diligence and research the product and any known issues that have been reported by security researchers and consumer reports.

The FBI encourages consumers to consider the following recommendations, at a minimum, prior to using Internet-connected toys.

  • Research for any known reported security issues online to include, but not limited to:

  • Only connect and use toys in environments with trusted and secured Wi-Fi Internet access

  • Research the toy’s Internet and device connection security measures

  • Use authentication when pairing the device with Bluetooth (via PIN code or password)

  • Use encryption when transmitting data from the toy to the Wi-Fi access point and to the server or cloud

  • Research if your toys can receive firmware and/or software updates and security patches

  • If they can, ensure your toys are running on the most updated versions and any available patches are implemented

  • Research where user data is stored – with the company, third party services, or both – and whether any publicly available reporting exists on their reputation and posture for cyber security

  • Carefully read disclosures and privacy policies (from company and any third parties) and consider the following:

  • If the company is victimized by a cyber-attack and your data may have been exposed, will the company notify you?

  • If vulnerabilities to the toy are discovered, will the company notify you?

  • Where is your data being stored?

  • Who has access to your data?

  • If changes are made to the disclosure and privacy policies, will the company notify you?

  • Is the company contact information openly available in case you have questions or concerns?

  • Closely monitor children’s activity with the toys (such as conversations and voice recordings) through the toy’s partner parent application, if such features are available

  • Ensure the toy is turned off, particularly those with microphones and cameras, when not in use

  • Use strong and unique login passwords when creating user accounts (e.g., lower and upper case letters, numbers, and special characters)

  • Provide only what is minimally required when inputting information for user accounts (e.g., some services offer additional features if birthdays or information on a child’s preferences are provided)

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