As families set-up all the new toys gifted this holiday season, federal law enforcement agents have shared a list of tips for staying safe and secure when using "smart toys." If a toy connects to the internet (whether through wi-fi or bluetooth), then it could be vulnerable to hacking.

Devices built to interact as part of their entertainment value can include sensors, microphones, cameras, data storage components, and other multimedia capabilities — including speech recognition and GPS options. With any such toy, a few key questions to seek the answers to are "Is your data being stored?" "If so, where?" and, "Who has access to your data?"

According to FBI Supervisory Special Agent Christian Schorle, of the Newark field office, the user agreements that we often click OK on without fully reading the dense legal wording often hold the answers to such questions.

The FBI previously has issued a "smart toy alert" guide, which outlined risks that also include ID fraud and other physical security issues. Basic tips include:

  • Use strong and unique login passwords when creating user accounts, even for kids’ toys.
  • Provide only what’s minimally required when inputting information for user accounts.
  • Only connect and use toys with trusted and secured wi-fi internet access.
    Guardians, carefully read toy privacy policies. Extreme "legalese" that's hard to follow is a red flag about protections.
  • Just like a smartphone, a toy's software may require updates. Make sure you download those quickly.
  • Be sure a toy is logged off, particularly those with microphones and cameras, when not in use.

If you suspect a child’s toy may have been compromised, you can file a complaint with the Internet Crime Complaint Center online at www.ic3.gov.

The internet privacy group Mozilla has created a privacy guide, which includes specific toy advice and information.

Mozilla recently highlighted some devices that meet their recommended "minimum security standards," which the non-profit organization describes as "five basic steps every company should take to protect consumer privacy": encryption, security updates, "strong password," "manages vulnerabilities" and privacy policy. As Amazon Associates, we earn on qualifying purchases, made through product links below.

Garmin Vívofit Jr 2 Kids Fitness/Activity Tracker
Amazon Fire HD Kids Edition 8
Disney Frozen 2 Coding Kit by Kano
PlayStation 4 Console

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