Are Our Children’s Smart Toys Safe?

UK consumer group, Which? have uncovered very worrying security flaws in a number of high street smart tools aimed at children. These toys could leave children unprotected from hackers, digital hijacking and enable direct contact from strangers. Will this effect your choice of Christmas gift? Have you already purchased a smart toy? And more importantly how could it effect your child?

The highly regarded consumer group, Which? have published details on their tests of popular smart toys available in the UK’s high street. These tests have exposed that several of them could put both you and your child at potential risk.

With parents spending or poised to spend millions of pounds on toys this Christmas, Which? Is calling for several of the items that they have tested to be pulled from sale. Tests were carried out on seven popular toys by the security specialists NCC Group, the results of which were distressing to say the least.

For example a Karaoke/Singing Machine, which uses Bluetooth to link to smartphones to enable the streaming of songs, do not require a Pin code or password to link devices. This basically means anyone in radius of the device could connect their own smart phone and send recorded messages to the machine. The device was also found to be open to what is know as a “second order attack” which could enable people to send voice commands to smart home devices. Commands could be like “Alexa turn off the alarm”, “Google unlock the front door”, the possibilities are frankly terrifying.

The NCC Group also tested a toy Walkie Talkie set could allow a complete stranger to start a live two conversation with the user from up to a 200m distance. Several of the toys that were tested required/used a connection to the user’s wi-fi network. Albeit without the high levels of protection required to prevent potential hacking or network hijacking. By potentially using these toys to gain access to your home Wi-Fi network hackers could essentially steal your personal information with ease!

To read the full article which names all of the toys tested please click here.

As a result of these tests, Which? is asking the next UK government to make it mandatory for manufacturers to ensure smart products, not simply toys, will meet appropriate security standards before going on sale.

Neena Bhati, head of campaigns at Which? when to Sky News stated:

“In some of the toys that we found, the major concern was that someone else could connect to the toy and actually start a two-way conversation with the child and this could be up to 200 metres away from the toy itself.

“This is quite concerning because parents might not always be around while their children are playing with these products, therefore not know what’s happening with the child and whether its communicating with anyone else – that can be quite dangerous.”

And we, as parents, couldn’t agree with her more.

Russ Ware

Russ has been testing, reviewing and writing guides for tech since the heady days of Windows 95 and the Sega Saturn. A self-confessed (and proud) geek about all things tech, if it has LED's, a screen, beeps or has source code, Russ will want to master it (and very likely take it apart to see how it works...)

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