Last year, millions of kids playing with certain electronic toys had their data hacked, according to the watchdogs at Consumer Reports.
As more and more toys connect to the internet, there are more and more chances for your child’s data to be hacked. With Christmas and Hanukkah right around the corner, Get Gephardt went in search of what parents need to know about the safety risks of connected smart toys.
"They can be a really, really big intrusion into your privacy as a family and especially your kids," said computer expert and owner of PC Laptops Dan Young.
Many connected toys collect information and upload it to the cloud, meaning it has the potential to fall into the hands of identity thieves, Young said.
Hackers are on the hunt.
Recently, a Get Gephardt investigation went inside the dark web with the FBI and discovered the shocking amount of private information that is being bought and sold. Your identity is a hot commodity — and so is your kid's.
"It's high value,” FBI Supervisory Special Agent Jeffrey Collins told Get Gephardt last year. “Criminals are after as much of it as they can get."
Young says the best way to protect your kid's identity is to keep it to yourself. Many toys will ask for personal information like name and birthday. Young says lie.
"I always just put January 1st and pick a random year," Young said.
Young doesn't think consumers should stay away from connected devices, just handle them with care.
"Remember, once [data] gets captured and uploaded into the cloud, it can be a pretty serious privacy issue and security issue," he said.
Bree Fowler with Consumer Reports says it's not just about the information your kid might share through the smart toy. A smart toy connected to your home router could allow a savvy bad guy access to every connected item in your home including cameras, speakers, or your commuter.
“You need to make sure everything is locked down,” Fowler said. “Basically, [connected toys] can be used as a gateway into your computer network."
To protect from that, Consumer Reports says parents should set strong passwords on connected toys and everything else in their home. For older kids who may be getting into social media, Young also suggests talking to them about what to share online and what to keep private.