The Internet of Things is intended to make life easier by getting all of our devices interacting and working as a team. Our devices even collect data to learn our preferences so they can better suit our needs. It’s a wonderful, magical symbiotic interaction in a perfect world environment. But our world isn’t perfect and there are plenty of people who wish to use this tangled web of connections as a backdoor into our data. We’ve talked about how your Alexa might be listening to you, but it turns out your kid’s toys may be listening too.
The FBI released a PSA on July 17th warning about this new data security threat:
The features and functions of different toys vary widely. In some cases, toys with microphones could record and collect conversations within earshot of the device. Information such as the child’s name, school, likes and dislikes, and activities may be disclosed through normal conversation with the toy or in the surrounding environment. The collection of a child’s personal information combined with a toy’s ability to connect to the Internet or other devices raises concerns for privacy and physical safety. Personal information (e.g., name, date of birth, pictures, address) is typically provided when creating user accounts. In addition, companies collect large amounts of additional data, such as voice messages, conversation recordings, past and real-time physical locations, Internet use history, and Internet addresses/IPs. The exposure of such information could create opportunities for child identity fraud. Additionally, the potential misuse of sensitive data such as GPS location information, visual identifiers from pictures or videos, and known interests to garner trust from a child could present exploitation risks.
They also provide a list of ways to address this issue:
- Research for any known reported security issues online
- 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)
One of our biggest vulnerabilities lies in our reliance on Wi-Fi and our willingness to sacrifice security in order to hook in. One of the easiest ways to expose a business network is via an employee’s unprotected device connecting to your system, creating an opening for cybersecurity risk. In your home and in your office, it is up to you to ensure network security best practices are known and upheld. If you think your business data safeguards aren’t enough, contact Great Lakes Computer. We can assess vulnerabilities and get you the protection you need.