The Dark Side of Talking Toys

Rising occurrences in cyber crime is concerning enough, but when we add children into the equation as targets, that concern becomes far more pressing.

We all remember the notorious, “Nigerian Prince” scam, preying on the most vulnerable members of society. It may seem silly since it is so commonly known, but scams such as these still report millions of dollars in losses every year. Now, with Bluetooth enabled children’s toys, cyber criminals have found a new target market.

The FBI posted a public service announcement back in July, 2017 warning parents of internet-connected toys and the threat potential they pose to privacy and contacting children. The announcement warns that these toys typically contain sensors, microphones, cameras, data storage components, speech recognition, and GPS options. That is a lot of granted opportunities for someone with bad intentions.

Buzz and Woody aside, talking toys are generally pretty creepy to adults (Sid’s house from Toy Story come to mind?). Now imagine hearing that high-pitched Furby voice asking your child what time they get picked up for school.

Remember when we talked about GPS options? D.C.’s Department of Forensic Science Digital Evidence Unit’s Tracy Walraven comments on the topic, “What’s stopping someone with not-so-good intentions who lives next door to go to pick up the child and say, ‘Your mommy told me to come get you’,”. The idea of strangers talking to our youth through internet enabled toys seems almost too surreal to be real, but these stories are no longer left to Stephen King readers, these stories have now come to life.

In a world where technology appears to be both a gift and a curse, we find ourselves at the crossroads of fully embracing our tech-driven world in all its glory, and deciding to live permanently off the grid…in an uninhabited cave. Tempting as cave dwelling may be, you don’t have to relocate your existence to non-existence to stay cyber safe. A healthy dose of skepticism and a solid foundation of education can go a long way in keeping your family safe online and offline.

Stay savvy, my friends.

Director of Training and Development @ InteProIQ