Wearable tech gadgets and app-controlled toys are on the rise this Christmas and while these gifts are lots of fun or practical, they can also be easily hacked by e-criminals or turned into a threat to consumers’ privacy.
On average, Australian households now have nine internet-connected devices. With more and more connected toys hitting retailers’ shelves, parents should be questioning the security standards of these toys before making any purchasing decisions.
Earlier this month, a complaint was lodged with the US Federal Trade Commission over internet-connected toys recording and transmitting kids' conversations in violation of privacy rules. In the past few years, many baby monitors have also been reported for hacks.
Nick FitzGerald, Senior Research Fellow at ESET, advises parents to go through the following steps before and after buying a connected toy:
“Firstly, consumers should understand that as long as a device can be connected to the web or other devices and isn’t secured, it can be accessed stealthily and used to a cybercriminal’s advantage. If parents understand those risks, but still want to go ahead, there are a few steps to optimising security levels."
- Check if the model or other gadgets of the same brand have had previous security vulnerabilities or privacy risks by searching for the brand name and those terms. Does your family want to risk being spied on? If not, maybe this gadget isn’t worth it. Or, if it still seems desirable, perhaps there are configuration options you can change to make them more secure – just remember to make those changes before you connect it to your home network!
- If there are some requirements to being connected to the internet, double check your Wi-Fi connection is properly secured and install a strong password on the connected device if possible.
- Get a proper security solution for all your devices. Via toys and baby monitors, hackers can also try to access your personal data through mobiles and tablets.
- When not in use, turn the gadget off completely.