These Cute Teddy Bears Have Been Recording Your Kids

When we think of cyberhacks, we often think of criminals trying to break into a network of important information protected behind a screen. You might think of enterprises and large organizations as victims of cyberattacks, but actors are moving their target to the home. Living with three kids, I try to make my home––and my tech––as safe for my kids as possible.

Cybercriminals are tricky, however, and sometimes sneak in to our homes in ways we’d never imagine possible. Recent attacks are even targeting children’s toys that connect to the internet, putting not only you, but your children’s privacy at risk.

CloudPets are loveable plush toys that allow kids to communicate directly with loved ones from afar. Friends and family members from around the globe can record voice messages on the CloudPets mobile app and upload it to a child’s stuffed animal, which will then play it for the owner. Kids can respond back by recording their own message through the stuffed animal’s built-in recording mechanism.

Security expert Troy Hunt was contacted last month by an unknown source, who told Hunt they had access to the entire CloudPets database of passwords and recordings. The source sent a snippet of about half a million recordings to Hunt, who then began to work on verifying their authenticity. He had been leading a security course at the time, and one of his students in the class was registered as a CloudPets parent. Using his student’s information, Hunt was able to locate his student’s email in the database, match the passwords, and authenticate the data. The leaked information included audio recordings of both children and adult voices with direct links, as well as the account profile photos of the kids who possessed the toys.

So, what does this mean for our children and their security? While this leak wasn’t as bad as the VTech breach that occurred a few years back, it’s still unclear how many people accessed the data that was exposed by this vulnerability. Because CloudPets didn’t have any complexity requirements for account passwords, it means it’s that much more vital to teach our children the importance of creating secure, complex logins. As the industry learns from attacks and fights back, there are a few proactive steps you––and your kids––can take. For now, know these three “S’s” to make your family more secure while using IoT devices at home.

  • Secure: How do you manage the passwords you use to protect your online accounts? You may only have one or two passwords for all online services you’re registered for (studies show that most of us use between 15 and 20 accounts each, but some of use 100 or more). This means that if one account is breached, all other accounts are at risk. Instead of relying on your brain to be your password manager, create your own algorithm to constructing secure passwords, and use a password manager like the True Key app, which keeps track of your logins, creates strong passwords, and signs you in with biometric security—just make sure each account has a unique password, and that you update your passwords regularly!
  • Separate: Connecting your devices to separate networks creates distinct connections and minimizes opportunity for a hack. We recommend using at least three different networks: one for your personal laptops, smartphones and tablets; one for guests’ devices; and one for IoT devices. This way, should a smart device become compromised, the breach will be limited to other devices connected to that network, and protect your personal devices from a threat. Smart Home products will exist in 50% of households by 2020, so it’s vital that we lock down our devices now as threats become smarter.
  • Safeguard: Invest in an internet router that protects your devices from within the system. McAfee Secure Home Platform does just that, securing internet-connected devices through the connection itself, to ensure maximum security. McAfee Secure Home Platform will be available on the Arris Surfboard Gateway and Humax routers in retailers across the US, Germany, and Thailand soon. Keep an eye out this Spring for gateways that have the McAfee Secure Home Platform built-in.

From improving personal safety, to increasing the ease of day-to-day tasks, IoT devices and smart home technology make your home and life more efficient. By remembering these easy tips to ensure IoT device safety and staying vigilant of suspicious behavior, you can get the most out of connected devices with the peace of mind that your data isn’t up for grabs.

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