IC3 issues warning over Internet-connected toys

The Internet Crime Compliant Center (IC3) has issued a public service announcement about the security risk that Internet-connected toys present. It states that toys that contain sensors, microphones, cameras, data storage components, and multimedia capabilities such as speech recognition put the information of their users – who are typically children – at risk.

The IC3, which is a multi-agency taskforce made up of the FBI, the National White Collar Crime Center (NW3C), and the Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA), issues such announcements when it spots emerging security threats.

Ten simple rules

The IC3 writes: “Consumers should examine toy company user agreement disclosures and privacy practices, and should know where their family’s personal data is sent and stored, including if it’s sent to third-party services.

“Security safeguards for these toys can be overlooked in the rush to market them and to make them easy to use.”

The announcement lists ten rules that consumers should follow to stay safe:

  1. Research for any known reported security issues online to include, but not limited to [those listed here]
  2. Only connect and use toys in environments with trusted and secured Wi-Fi Internet access
  3. Research the toy’s Internet and device connection security measures
    • Use authentication when pairing the device with Bluetooth (via PIN code or password)
    • Use encryption when transmitting data from the toy to the Wi-Fi access point and to the server or cloud
  4. Research if your toys can receive firmware and/or software updates and security patches
    • If they can, ensure your toys are running on the most updated versions and any available patches are implemented
  5. Research where user data is stored – with the company, third party services, or both – and whether any publicly available reporting exists on their reputation and posture for cyber security
  6. Carefully read disclosures and privacy policies (from company and any third parties) and consider the following:
    • If the company is victimized by a cyber-attack and your data may have been exposed, will the company notify you?
    • If vulnerabilities to the toy are discovered, will the company notify you?
    • Where is your data being stored?
    • Who has access to your data?
    • If changes are made to the disclosure and privacy policies, will the company notify you?
    • Is the company contact information openly available in case you have questions or concerns?
  7. Closely monitor children’s activity with the toys (such as conversations and voice recordings) through the toy’s partner parent application, if such features are available
  8. Ensure the toy is turned off, particularly those with microphones and cameras, when not in use
  9. Use strong and unique login passwords when creating user accounts (e.g., lower and upper case letters, numbers, and special characters)
  10. Provide only what is minimally required when inputting information for user accounts (e.g., some services offer additional features if birthdays or information on a child’s preferences are provided)

The announcement also recommends that you file a complaint with the IC3 if you suspect that your child’s toy has been compromised.

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