Interactive toys are just like computers – they can be hacked


RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) – That cute, cuddly toy you just bought for your child could be spying on your kid, causing a potential security risk for you and your family.

It’s such a real danger that both the FBI and the North Carolina Attorney General’s Office have issued warnings about internet insecurities in the toy box.

Some of these toys may pose a risk as hackers might also be learning things they shouldn’t know if the toy has Bluetooth capacity or is connected to the internet.

It may look like a toy, but Aaron Schoeffler, the COO of Computer Repair Doctor in Raleigh, says many people don’t realize those kind of interactive toys are in effect a computer.

“It won’t be as advanced as your iPhone, but at the same time it has to do input and output and you can connect to the internet,” Schoeffler said.

And just like a computer, the toy can be hacked.

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“As with anything that’s new, they’ll try and exploit it in some way,” explains Schoeffler.

Features and functions of different toys vary widely.

They could contain sensors, microphones, cameras, data storage capacity or even GPS location information.

“With any new technology a lot of exploits exist, whether it’s someone who can get your GPS data and know where you are, or whether it’s people who can listen on the device. Those concerns are valid,” he said.

Keep in mind, when you buy an interactive toy there’s usually no way to update its operating system.

“Therefore security exploits may be there for years or always be there,” said Schoeffler.

As a parent you need to know how the toy is storing information so you can control its use.

“Find out if it is storing data on the device,” said Schoeffler. “Is it storing it locally? Or submitting it to a server outside somewhere?”

To protect your kids do your research.

And make sure you read operating instructions carefully to find out what the device does, and how you may be able to control its internet use.

Also, don’t forget to simply turn off the toy when it’s not being used so it won’t keep collecting the information it hears or sees when you don’t think the toy is operating.

Click here to read the FBI warning.

Here’s a link to the FDA policy on the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act.

Other links:
Protect Yourselves (and Your Children) from Internet Connected Toys

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