When Kids’ Toys (Cyber) Attack
Today’s kids are more technologically savvy and connected than ever – whether it’s through smart phones, tablets, traditional desktops or their connected toys. And with a digital connection also comes vulnerabilities to cyber attacks. Think cyber criminals aren’t low enough to target your kids? Think again.
Over the past couple of months, VTech, the gadget maker of kid-tailored gaming systems, smart watches, tablets, and other devices, has been dealing with the fallout of a major cyber attack of its Learning Lodge app in mid-November. Nearly five million parents’ accounts and over six million kids’ accounts were exposed. The security breach was global, impacting its customer database across North America, Europe, Latin America, and Asia. Cyber criminals gained access to names, mailing addresses, email addresses, passwords, IP addresses, among other pertinent details. While the company has been closely working with law enforcement to capture the culprits, the magnitude of this breach serves as a reminder of how parents need to be careful of their kids’ information and digital footprints.
Security breaches are commonplace for adults, but it’s a newer concern for children, whose information is ripe for stealing. They have very little to no history and are less likely to keep tabs to see if they’ve been hacked. Have you ever met an eight-year-old who’s asked to check their credit score? Didn’t think so. Parents not only need to take extra precautions for themselves, but also their kids, to protect their information. Here are a few areas parents should keep in mind:
- College and Financial Aid Applications: When applying for college, students are filling out numerous documents and the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), teeming with personal information, including names, mailing addresses, and Social Security numbers. There’s no way to get out of sharing this information with educational institutions, but parents should keep a close eye on their kids’ accounts and credit histories to make sure there’s no suspicious activity.
- Online Accounts: Often times your kids are asked for a number of personal details, whether it’s to set up a device or log into a gaming center. As VTech and most recently Hello Kitty and Barbie demonstrated, these details can easily be exposed without a proper security system in place. Set up these accounts with your kids, so you can monitor what information is being shared and determine what’s really needed.
- Smart Toys: As kids become more digitally savvy, so do their toys. While kid-friendly devices may keep adult content off, they are connected to online portals, so your kids’ digital interactions are shared on the World Wide Web. The information their toys are sharing, such as chat logs, photos, and IP addresses, are also at risk.
You can’t track their every digital step, but you can do your best to be careful where your kids input information. Make sure that the businesses and sites you’re transacting with are equipped with the best solutions to protect your information and prevent fraud. That’s an idea you won’t need to toy with.