Monday, 20 November, 2017

Strangers 'can use smart toys to message children'

The My Friend Cayla doll turned out not to be so friendly according to a complaint filed with the FTC.                  Gensis Toys The My Friend Cayla doll turned out not to be so friendly according to a complaint filed with the FTC. Gensis Toys
Conrad Doyle | 14 November, 2017, 17:26

The warnings come after United Kingdom consumer watchdog Which? urged major retailers to withdraw a number of "connected" toys that are expected to be popular at Christmas, after finding security failures that could put a child's safety at risk. It says an investigation found no password and little technical knowledge was needed to hijack loudspeakers built into the toys.

A recent investigation by consumer group Which? found that some of this year's must-have toys, such as Furby Connect, i-Que Intelligent Robot, Toy-fi Teddy and CloudPets can all be accessed via Bluetooth or Wi-Fi connections.

It has written to retailers asking them to stop selling the toys ahead of Christmas until the security problems have been resolved.

An investigation carried out by Which?, along with other security research experts, found issues with Bluetooth and wifi-enabled toys that could allow strangers to talk to a child. The lack of authentication means that, in theory, any device within physical range could link to the toy and take control or send messages, the watchdog said.

With each of these toys, the Bluetooth connection had not been secured, meaning the researcher did not need a password, pin or any other authentication to gain access.

It was also found that hackers could take control of the voice unit in CloudPets toys that allowed them not only to talk to children, but even issue commands to a nearby Amazon Echo speaker.

The consumer body worked in conjunction with German watchdog Stiftung Warentet and third-party security experts to test seven different toys, four of which failed the test.

The brightly coloured talking robot uses Bluetooth to pair with a phone or tablet through an app, but the connection is unsecured. Researchers were then able to upload a custom audio file to the toy, which could be anything given the lack of restrictions, including inappropriate material.

The I-Que Intelligent Robot, has previously featured on Hamleys top toys Christmas list and is available from Argos and Hamleys. But the Which? investigation revealed that anyone could download the app, find a toy within Bluetooth range and start chatting using the robot's voice by typing into a text field.

"We feel confident in the way we have designed both the toy and the app to deliver a secure play experience". It was found that hackers could send their own voice messages to the toy, and receive the replies from the child.

As more toys add Wi-Fi and Bluetooth connections to pack in new skills and features, regulators have kept a wary eye on them for security vulnerabilities.

The makers of the Cloud Pets and Toy-fi Teddy declined to comment.

"Sadly, there have been many examples in the past two to three years of connected toys that have security flaws that put children at risk", he said.

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