Although your holiday season should be full of joy and hopefulness, the FBI has issued a dire warning: your children’s privacy and safety could be at risk, and the culprit could be sitting right inside their bedroom. (scroll down for video)
It’s the rise of new, highly-advanced, wireless toys that could be spying on you and your family, giving an inside look for perverts or easy access to personal information for hackers.
Anything from a talking doll to children’s tablets could be vulnerable.
The dire warning was issued by the FBI earlier this year and warned about remote activation of cameras or even location tracking to enable stalking.
Beware: The toys your kids unwrap this Christmas could invite hackers into your home. https://t.co/6S5sjrHXWU
— The Associated Press (@AP) December 22, 2017
A lack of safeguarding due to manufacturers’ rush to produce toys have only weakened basic security measures, says the FBI.
Although authorities are recommending to get rid of any such gifts, if you decide to keep them, there are some basic steps you can take to maximize privacy.
Research The Toy
This is the most basic step you can take and it can be done long before you purchase it and bring it into your home.
Many manufacturers will provide privacy information within the product itself or on their website, including how personal data is collected.
If, however, none of these essential facts are available, it could be a bad sign.
“You shouldn’t use it, ” says Behnam Dayanim, a co-chair of Paul Hastings’ practice for privacy and cybersecurity.
Sometimes, privacy policies are changed over time, so be sure to read new versions if the company informs you they’re available.
Avoid Using Insecure Wi-Fi
Only using a secure Wi-Fi connection can help protect your personal information.
This is aided even further if you have a robust password that is difficult to guess or hack.
Furthermore, do not use public Wi-Fi connections, like those found at internet cafes, as they are very vulnerable to breaches.
In some instances, the toy has its own password features, in which case you should use that, too.
Disable Inactive Toys
When a toy gets old, or is not being used anymore that day, be sure to turn it off completely.
“They become less of an attractive target,” says Alan Brill, a cybersecurity and investigations managing director at Kroll, a consulting firm.
Nowadays, cameras seem to be embedded in everything, so covering the lens with a piece of tape/cloth, or at the least facing it away towards a wall, can help.
Similarly, with microphones, storing them underneath clothes in a drawer or at the bottom of a toy chest can help create a buffer between it and your private conversations.
Register Devices Cautiously
According to Brill, you can register your personal information with the toy, which can give automatic security updates.
However, you are well within your rights to be extremely guarded with the information you input.
Brill even says you can make up some of the info they ask for, such as your child’s date of birth.
“You’re not under oath, you can lie,” says Brill.
Discretion is a key part of sifting through the dozens of new gifts your children got for Christmas.
As reported by The Daily Mail:
“If the toy or device allows kids to chat with other people playing with the same toy or game, explain to children that they can’t give out personal information, said Liz Brown, a business law professor at Bentley University in Waltham, Massachusetts, who focuses on technology and privacy law.
“Discussions are not enough: Check the chat section to make sure children aren’t sending things they shouldn’t be, Brown said.
“People could be pretending to be kids to get personal information. ‘It can get creepy pretty fast,’ said Brown.
“Reputable companies that make toys with microphones will offer ways for parents to review and delete stored information.
“Take advantage of that.”
Report Any Privacy Breaches
The FBI suggests reporting any privacy breaches to their internet crime complaint center at IC3.gov.
Sources: The Daily Mail