FBI warns parents about smart toys

- A summer day at Ballast Point Park evokes memories of a much simpler time and much simpler toys for parents like Sean Camacho.

"Slinky? You want to talk about Legos, building blocks, you want to go outside, play with the jungle gym," Camacho recalled.

Nowadays, it's all about technology. Toys can connect to the internet, talk to kids and even transmit messages.

But the FBI says internet-connected smart toys like the Cloud Pet are a cyber security threat. Nearly two million personal recordings made by children to their stuffed animals were recently hacked and leaked online.

"If you accept that toy into your home, you accept the responsibilities that come with it. So, beware," said FBI spokesperson Garrett H. Croon.

The agency's Internet Crime Complaint Center is warning parents that toys with sensors, microphones, cameras and GPS options could put kids at risk. Wi-fi capabilities combined with security vulnerabilities can allow hackers to watch and even interact with children, collecting private information like their name, school and activities.

"Your children may be speaking to the toys, or there could be background noise. Those audio recordings or video recordings are sent to a database somewhere in the sky, which could be hacked by someone, unwittingly releasing information that's personal to you." Croon said.

The FBI is urging parents to research and inspect smart toys, only using them with secure wi-fi connections.

"I play with it myself," said Camacho. "It sounds stupid but I am a big kid of my own so I have to test it out and if it's able to be something educational, of course. If it's something I see as hazardous, then, I kind of back up and rethink it."

Most parents we spoke with would rather see their kids connected to monkey bars, not the internet.

"We try to take him to the park so he can enjoy the beauty of outside and exercise," said Kara Ortiz as she watched her 2-year-old son play.

"I try to socialize him with other kids at the park because, it's not good for the kids," Ortiz said of the toys, "they are in the future."

The FBI encourages consumers to consider the following recommendations:

-Only connect and use toys in environments with trusted and secured wi-fi Internet access
-Research the toy's Internet and device connection security measures
-Use authentication when pairing the device with Bluetooth (via PIN code or password)
-Use encryption when transmitting data from the toy to the wi-fi access point and to the server or cloud
-Research if your toys can receive firmware and/or software updates and security patches
-Ensure your toys are running on the most updated versions and any available patches are implemented
-Research where user data is stored - with the company, third party services, or both - and whether any publicly available reporting exists on their reputation and posture for cyber security
-Carefully read disclosures and privacy policies (from company and any third parties)
-Provide only what is minimally required when inputting information for user accounts

If you suspect your child's toy may have been compromised, file a complaint with the Internet Crime Complaint Center, at www.IC3.gov.

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