F-Secure, a Finland-based online security and privacy company, has warned parents to become more aware of the threats posed by new Internet of Things (IoT) toys designed for kids. Smart toys are essentially toys that connect to the internet and are set to become a large product category for IoT devices.
Last year's well-known cyber attack on Hong Kong-based digital learning products VTech Holdings exposed the data of 6.4 million children, triggering a panic about the security and privacy risks these toys carry for kids. "The thing that parents need to know about smart toys is that they are new terrain for parents and kids, but also manufacturers," Sean Sullivan, security advisor at F-Secure, said in a statement.
‘The best approach to protect kids is for parents to become involved when their kids learn to use devices or online services.’
"Smart toys and IoT devices in general are a competitive market and we have already seen numerous examples where security is treated as an afterthought. Companies are more interested in growing their customer base than securing customer data so we will probably continue to see these cracks in smart toy security," Sullivan explained.
The security company also mapped directives for parents about IoT devices. The company said the best approach for protecting kids is for parents to become involved in how their kids learn to use devices or online services.
"Learning should work both ways and be done together - parents can learn about issues facing the kids, and kids can learn things parents understand, like the dangers of interacting with strangers," Mikael Albrecht, F-Secure researcher, noted. Parents should pay attention and understand what services their children are using.
"It is ok for parents to use technical solutions to keep an eye on what kids are doing online, but parents should be open about this and prepared to ease off as kids age," Albrecht said, adding that "chances are kids will figure out these technical controls anyway."