Net-connected toys and gadgets bought as Christmas gifts could put the privacy and safety of children at risk, warns the UK’s data regulator.
With a rise in the number of ‘smart’ toys and devices gracing the wish list this year, parents should consider the safety of them being connected directly to the internet before giving them as gifts.
The Information Commissioners’ Office has urged parents to turn off the cameras and automatic tracking devices, including Bluetooth setting in their children’s Christmas presents because of the risk of hacking. Deputy Commissioner Steve Wood advised adults to destroy some sorts of children’s smartwatches too and set strong passwords on toys destined for children’s stockings.
Many toys have poor security, easy to guess passwords and cannot be updated to fix bugs, said Wood. Cameras and sensors leave children at risk of being targeted, he warned. Some are so poorly protected that they could be used by hackers as a route into a home network, he said.
He urged parents to take care when buying the smart devices.
In a blog on the regulator’s website Wood wrote: “You wouldn’t knowingly give a child a dangerous toy, so why risk buying them something that could be easily hacked into by strangers? In the same way that safety standards are a primary consideration for shoppers buying toys, we want those buying connected items in the coming weeks to take a pause and think about both the child’s online safety, and also the potential threat to their own personal data such as bank details, if a toy, device or a supporting app is hacked into.”
The warning comes amid growing concerns about the ability of criminals to hack into toys containing sensors, microphones, cameras, data storage and other multi-media capabilities.
A recent investigation found ‘worrying security failures’ with the I-Que Intelligent Robot, Furby Connect, Toy-fi Teddy, and CloudPets cuddly toy.