News about the popular children’s toy, CloudPets, recently served as a reminder that “not all that glitters is gold.” So it is with the Internet of Things. Although the IoT is heavily promoted by citing its many benefits, as with so many other things, there are always downsides.
The hook that makes CloudPets so appealing to parents – and especially grandparents – is that the product of parent company, Spiral Toys, allows communication via a mobile app and the internal electronics of the plush toy line.
The problem with the toy is that it was not, at least as of the end of February 2017, adequately unprotected from intrusion. It was, in effect, a microphone as a virtual snooping device inside a toy for anyone who understands how to use the internet as a spying tool.
The net results (pardon the pun) of failing to provide even minimal security measures are that millions of private conversations, both in home and across the cloud, were exposed and held for ransom by cyber thieves.
One cyber security expert told the London Daily Mail that,
“It’s an alarming leak because not only does it expose very personal information from children, but the company has also elected not to notify impacted families.
“The primary risk is the invasion of privacy it poses to families. Whilst there is still the potential for hackers to abuse the usernames and passwords stolen, it’s strangers listening to your children which worries parents the most.
“There’s little functional value to voice recordings of children, but it’s content of a very personal nature which families would obviously like to keep private.”
Yet another expert said,
“Anyone can connect to the toy, as long as it is switched on and not currently connected to anything else. Bluetooth LE typically has a range of about 10 – 30 meters, so someone standing outside your house could easily connect to the toy, upload audio recordings, and receive audio from the microphone.”
The Lessons to Learn
- Do not underestimate the need for security for all connected devices.
- Any device connected to the internet is vulnerable to attack. This includes smart house and smart car devices.
- Just because an object looks like a toy, if it contains internet-connected devices, only your child should think it is a toy.
- Be concerned. Be careful. Be cautious.
Personal privacy, identity, and even conversations, are all in danger of being accessed via the internet and the cloud. No one is exempt. Everyone needs to be sure they are protected.