FBI spy-toy warning puts connected kid gadgets in crosshairs

With security breaches seemingly popping up in the news every other week, by now most of us should (hopefully) know the basics of keeping our data safe online. Today, however, the FBI is trying to draw attention to a potential security risk that is often overlooked: internet connected toys. To hear the FBI lay out its case, it sounds like the organization has a lot of concerns about the data these internet connected toys can collect.

The FBI seems to be especially concerned about internet connected toys with microphones and cameras. When paired with speech recognition software and even GPS in some cases, these toys have the potential to collect a lot of data, and that's especially true when you consider how open children can be about their own lives.

What's concerning about all of this is the potential for data breaches. If you child has shared sensitive information like their name, address, or school and that data has been stored on the toy manufacturer's (or third-party partner's) servers, you risk having that sensitive information out in the open if those servers are ever breached. That, in turn, not only opens up the door to exploitation, but also for child identity fraud.

So, what can you do prevent these issues? Unfortunately, server security is on the manufacturer or their third-party partner responsible for storing the data, and it certainly seems that in a lot of cases, security of these servers is put on the back burner until a breach actually occurs. While the security of those servers is out of your hands, there are a few things you can do to keep information safe.

The FBI recommends that parents read disclosures and privacy policies for the toys they buy so they can know how their child's data is stored and what the company will do in the event of a breach. Beyond that, researching a toy before you buy it is a great idea – security concerns tend to come to the surface quickly after one of these toys are released, and it's likely that other owners or data security watchdogs will bring these concerns to light online.

Of course, you can also monitor your child's activity with the toy to make sure they don't loose any sensitive information, and you can make sure toys that use cameras and microphones are turned off when not in use. If you're a parent who buys connected toys for your child, reading through the FBI's full Public Service Announcement isn't a bad idea. It's there that you'll also be able to file a complaint if you feel that one of your child's toys has been compromised.