FBI issues safety, privacy warning for parents over internet-connected children's toys

FBI issues safety, privacy warning for parents over internet-connected children's toys
Posted at 8:19 AM, Jul 18, 2017
and last updated 2017-07-18 11:19:51-04

As more and more children use "smart" toys and other internet-connectable entertainment devices, safety and privacy concerns are being raised.

The FBI issued a warning about toys that "contain sensors, microphones, cameras, data storage components, and other multimedia capabilities -- including speech recognition and GPS options. These features could put the privacy and safety of children at risk due to the large amount of personal information that may be unwittingly disclosed."

According to the FBI, the toys -- depending on the functionality and features -- could possibly record a child's name, school, likes and dislikes, and activities. The FBI says exposure and/or collection of a child's (or anyone else's) personal information and location could potentially lead to identity fraud or exploitation risks.

The FBI recommends the following when it comes 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)

Click here to visit the FBI's Internet Crime Complaint Center website for more information