Months before the busy holiday shopping season, computer security analysts are issuing warnings about an impending wave of internet-connected toys that will certainly be found under many Christmas trees in the High Desert later this year.

The FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center, known as IC3, recently issued a notice to consumers encouraging them to check their household networks before purchasing smart toys that connect to the Internet of Things, known as IoT.

Devices that Connect to the Internet You May Not Know About

Some examples of internet-connected toys include My Friend Cayla, Hello Barbie, VTech tablets, and CloudPets. These toys feature sensors, cameras, microphones, GPS modules, and internet connectivity to make them part of the IoT through Wi-Fi or wireless broadband networks. The advanced functionality of these toys make them very attractive to children due to their high level of interaction.

Connected toys rely on information to showcase their special features; for example, a doll or teddy bear can elicit conversation with your children, asking them questions about their names, schools, favorite restaurants, age, activities, and more. This information is stored locally by the toy, but in many cases it is also transmitted over the IoT to a remote location managed by the manufacturer; the information collected may be used to customize interactions or to feed a machine learning construct that will improve the artificial intelligence of the toys, which in many cases are permanently connected to the IoT.

The Dangers of Security Risks Posed by Internet-Connected Devices

The connections made by these toys to the IoT can be directly accomplished as they seek a Wi-Fi network or some other open access point. They may also connect indirectly by means of an Android or iOS app or via Bluetooth.

Internet-connected toys can be vulnerable to data breaches and network intrusions. In the case of VTech tablets and CloudPets, hackers carried out attacks against the toy manufacturers and stole millions of data records that contained the personal information of children. When considering that many of these toys feature GPS modules, you can see how this could be a problem in Victorville, Apple Valley, Hesperia, or anywhere else in California.

With regard to network intrusions, it is up to parents to make sure that connected toys do not create an attack vector for hackers seeking to intrude home networks. Network intrusions can be carried out by taking advantage of IoT or device weaknesses. Before you purchase a connected toy, you should check the security and integrity of your network so that hackers can be kept out; this can be accomplished by running a port scan, setting up strong passwords and turning on encryption protocols.

If you would like to know more about securing your home network, contact the security specialists at PC Performance Pros in Victorville.