As a parent, protecting your children is a top priority. But in today's world, it's harder than before. Threats to your child's privacy and safety seem to be everywhere.
A recent report by U.S. security researcher, Matt Jakubowski, showed that security threats have now made their way into your child's bedroom. That is, if you've recently purchased Mattel's latest Wi-Fi-enabled Barbie doll.
The Hello Barbie is one of the most popular toys on the market. It uses Wi-Fi to connect to the Internet, and has a built-in speaker that listens to your child, then generates real-time responses.
However, the doll's coolest features are also what makes it vulnerable to cybercrime. According to Jakubowski, the toy can be easily hacked and turned into a surveillance device that spies on your child.
Each time Hello Barbie records your child's voice, that information is sent to a third party before a natural language response is generated. This is similar to how voice-command software works, such as Apple's Siri and Google's Now.
In his tests, Jakubowski found that he could easily gain access to data from the doll, and even direct access to the microphone itself.
"You can take that information and find out a person's house address," he warns. "It's just a matter of time until we are able to replace their servers with ours and have [the doll] say anything we want."
Of course, Mattel did take precautionary steps when making Hello Barbie. The doll only records when a button is held down, and all voice messages are encrypted before they're sent out. But with the increased abilities hackers have now, these safety features can be overridden.
ToyTalk, co-creators of the Hello Barbie, responded to Jakubowski's findings with a shrug of its shoulders.
"An enthusiastic researcher has reported finding some device data and called that a hack," chief executive Oren Jacob said. "While the path that researcher used to find that data is not obvious and not user-friendly, it's important to note that all that information was already directly available to Hello Barbie customers through the Hello Barbie Companion App. No user data, no Barbie content, and no major security nor privacy protections has been compromised to our knowledge.”
If you've already purchased the Hello Barbie for your child, you may want to contact the retailer regarding their return policy. Or, if you're keeping the doll, we recommend that you at least take extra precautions to make sure your Internet connection is safe. Check your router for security flaws, and make sure you've set a strong password.