How toys pry into our children’s lives and what we can do to stop them

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IoT or Internet of Things. You must have heard of it. It includes all those objects surrounding us that are interconnected and communicate through the internet. You might also know that over the past years they raised some concerns on how secure they are for our privacy.

But did you ever think of another IoT? Also known as Internet of Toys, it is the latest big thing that raises not only moral and ethical issues but also cybersecurity concerns.

As technology developed, it managed to infiltrate all areas of our day-to-day activities. Because of this development, technology has significantly revolutionized education, as well. However, most often, the ethical limits of these innovative methods have not been enforced through any form of legislation, especially when it comes to toys.

So what’s the deal with the new IoT?

Most of us would probably wonder what the big concern about toys with integrated software is.

First of all, the majority of modern toys, designed to not only entertain, but also to educate, require access to personal information about parents and children.

Secondly, from Barbie dolls, to stuffed bears and tablets for children, these smart toys are equipped with microphones, video cameras and tools that enable children to communicate and record data. Last but not least, under the pretext of utility, some toys have GPS integrated and can easily identify your children’s location.

For sure, connected educational toys are useful in helping children’s development and can comfort parents who can monitor their kids more easily. But be careful how they are used and how much they are influencing your children’s private life.

How toys are killing your privacy

A study conducted in 2013 by Common Sense Media  showed that 38% of children under the age 2 used a mobile device, compared to just 10% in 2011. Since then, the number of hacking cases has also grown.

We know that the common thinking usually is “who cares about what our children are saying or doing?” or “who would want to harm a child?”. We would like to find an explanation for weird human behavior, so we can fight it but unfortunately these cases happen whether we understand them or not.

One of these strange behaviors led to a weird hacking. Someone took control of a baby monitor, spied and scared a kid at night.

Someone else, whose intentions are not known, hacked the database of VTech, a toymaker that produces connected gadgets for kids. The hacker managed to get 190GB of photos, conversations between parents and children, user credentials and voice records.

A talking doll, Cayla, was intentionally hacked in 2015 to prove that you can make it say anything you want, thus engaging the children in inappropriate conversation.

Hello Barbie, the biggest success among little girls seems to have quite a number of flaws, making it vulnerable to hackers who can eavesdrop on communication and access the cloud servers to which the doll is connected.

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Should we give them up?

There is no doubt that connected toys and developing technologies have their benefits, especially when they are used consciously.

CyberGhost is encouraging security and privacy awareness worldwide. We also encourage education and technical development but both need to be passed through an ethical and moral filter before handing them to our kids.

So how should we avoid the dangers disguised in cute, funny toys?

  • Be sure to check what data is stored and shared with the manufacturer. Avoid those that require GPS location, video or voice records
  • Although they are lengthy and apparently uninteresting, do read the Privacy Policy and Terms & Conditions to see how private data will be used and to what you agree by using that product. Most of the times, if information is shared with third-parties it means that more and more people will access it.
  • If you are required to share personal data on your kid, just make up some fictive names.
  • Whether the risk is giving private info on your child to a hacker or just receiving targeted advertising, it is best to stay on the safe side and fill in just the required fields, with unimportant information

As a privacy and security company, our goal is to raise awareness on privacy issues in all industries and domains. So share this with all your friends and relatives with or without children and make sure you are part of the good fight.

Stay informed, stay private!

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Diana
Diana

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