Almost every San Angelo kid either has them already or wants them.  They are the cool toys. They're called "smart toys". Smart toys are toys that come with a camera or microphone and can connect to the internet. These toys can be hacked.

One of these toys, the My Friend Cayla doll, has already been banned in many countries.  The German government calls it an "espionage device" Here in America, authorities recommend if you have the doll, replace it with something more secure. The insecure Bluetooth connection included with the doll can allow a hacker to listen in or even talk to a child through the doll.

Photo: Genesis Toys via YouTube
Photo: Genesis Toys via YouTube
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The server for Cloud pets, another web based toys was breached and there have been many reports on social media of strangers sending questionable messages to kids through the cute teddy bears. These bears are now out of stock and the government recommends you not use them.  This is what one concerned parent posted on Twitter.

These bears were capable of recording private household conversations and leaking them online.

Photo: The Huntress vis YouTube
Photo: The Huntress vis YouTube
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Another smart toy that has had security issues is Mattel's "Hello, Barbie".  You would think a huge toy company like Mattel would be tops in security.  Not true.  Hello Barbie has been pulled from store shelves. Child advocates say they should call this doll "Surveillance Barbie" since she listens to children's conversations and technically, can use the information to try and sell your family additional products or sell it to third party marketing companies.

Mattell disputes these allegations and contends your child's interactions and recordings are only used to make the product more interactive.  Do you trust it?

Photo: EverythingDolls via YouTube
Photo: EverythingDolls via YouTube
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With the right safeguards, these toys can teach and engage with your children.  Without them, hackers can get access through a Bluetooth connection, and your child or your own personal conversations can be compromised.

Photo by Possessed Photography on Unsplash
Photo by Possessed Photography on Unsplash
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Here are some things to look out for when purchasing smart toys for Children:

1) No Authentication: The most vulnerable toys were missing authentication measure for their Bluetooth connection used to connect the toys with their complementary apps or devices.  Make sure any smart toy you buy has authentication measures.

2) Plaintext Passwords: When setting up your toys accounts on the maker's website, make sure the website uses encryption. A secure should always begin with "https" rather than "http".

3) Make sure you Research Your Child's Smart Toy Requests:  If your child is clamouring for a smart toy, make sure you do your homework.  Are there any issues.  Check with google, reddit and elsewhere.

Recently, The World Economic Forum announced the winners of the "Smart Toy Awards".  These 8 toys were selected for their safety in protecting Data privacy and cyber security, accessibility and other categories that minimize the risk for children's privacy.  The winners were: Intelino, Twin Science, LEGO, Leka, PlayShifu, ROYBI,CodrMindz and LuxAL

The government has deemed Hasbro's Furby Connect safe, but when it was first introduced, anyone within a 10-30 meter radius could connect to the toy when it's switched on.  Besides, does anyone feel safe undressing in front of this?

Photo by Mattel Toys
Photo by Mattel Toys
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