By: Jillian Stella, December 22, 2017 (11:24 AM)

Tis the Season for Talking Toy Injections

If it’s responding – it’s listening.

Ever since Tickle-me Elmo, talking toys have been the ultimate children’s holiday gift.

And with technologies everlasting evolvement, toys can now hear you and speak to you.

Thousands of children this holiday season will receive presents that use Bluetooth or Wifi to converse with them (similarly to how you can talk to your Alexa).

That connection has shown to be disastrous because it is typically easy to hack.

So easy that the FBI issued a warning stating “these toys typically contain sensors, microphones, cameras, data storage components, and other multimedia capabilities – including speech recognition and GPS options.”

Such exploitation can result in child identity fraud and may put a child at a greater risk of coming in contact with a criminal.

Thankfully, parents can ensure their children’s talking toys are safe this holiday season by doing the following:

  1. Research its safety online. Generally, serious events like a hacked children’s toy are reported in the news. You can surf online for the toy and ensure there have been no past reports of talking toy injections.
  2. Read consumer reviews. Once you are sure that there have not been any accounts of toy hacks, you can read what consumers who actually bought the product are saying about their smart toys.
  3. Make sure you agree to the user agreement. Yes, its tediously long but the user agreement will tell you what intelligence your child’s toy is collecting, who it’s being shared with and if it will be used for third parties or advertisements. Pretty important information, huh?
  4. Keep updated with updates. Just as we update our Macs or our Windows machines every Tuesday, smart toys use software’s that need to be updated as well. If the toy does not issue updates, rethink your purchase because no updates means more software vulnerabilities and a higher risk of a hacked Tickle-me Elmo.

Once you’ve checked everything off the list, sit back, relax and enjoy your holiday free of talking toy injections because after all, the last thing you want to give your child is a piece of coal.

Jillian Stella

Jillian Stella is a recent graduate from the University at Albany where she obtained a Bachelor’s of Science degree in Digital Forensics. Jillian is a Security Analyst and Researcher at Cursive Security where she works with and performs assessment and response services for clients. She is currently conducting research in the area of cyber threat intelligence.

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