The quality and popularity of smart toys means they will feature on many children’s Christmas wish lists this year. This is great news for the kids, they can be fun, but for the grown-ups connected device security is something else to worry about. Plus, for technically anxious adults, smart toys can be harder to set up than simply breaking out of the packaging, finding a small screw driver, and remembering to have AA batteries on hand to insert.
Here are a few starting points for buying smart gifts this Christmas:
- Think of the security of a connected toy as important as that of your home PC or app and act accordingly.
- Do your research for the toys you are interested in, check the reviews and advice. Are security experts are saying anything about it? Lots of testing and published information is out there because experts and companies do care.
- Read the user agreements as well as the instructions. Be sure you are happy to share any information asked for, such as the name and date of birth of the child. If you are not, don’t!
- As with a PC or banking apps, use a strong password when setting up an account. Keep personal information shared to a minimum.
- Find out whether the connected toy can receive what are known as software updates and patches. If it can it means that if a problem is discovered the manufacturer’s experts are able to fix things remotely and send the fix to the toy, over-the-air. Remember, the toy may have been in a factory, on a boat, in a lorry and on the shelf for a long time, so download updates immediately, and keep it up-to-date.
- Question what information is being sent and where it being stored, this might include pictures, recordings or location. Can any of these features be switched off to suit your family’s needs.
- Choose toys that can be easily turned off and make they are turned off when not being used, particularly those with built in microphones or cameras.
- Be sure the connectivity will work and is through a secure password protected access point you trust.
- Keep an eye on what the child is doing. Some toys also come with a parent portal which can help you keep track.
- Can you trust the brand? If the worst happens and the internet-connected toy is hacked, a brand with a good reputation will have protective procedures in place and move quickly.