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Security & privacy

Don’t buy your kids this smart tech that can be hacked

Choosing the right gifts for your kids during the holidays can be rough. Some kids might like constructive toys like Lego sets, while others might prefer video games like Fortnite. One thing is certain, though: kids love high-tech presents.

Who can blame them? Today’s children have grown up in a deeply immersive digital ecosystem since birth, which makes them adaptable and inclined towards technology. But just because kids love tech doesn’t mean it’s good for them nonstop. Tap or click here to see our technology contract for parents and kids.

Smart toys and gadgets you may have purchased for Christmas can also pose security risks. Researchers discovered several smart gadgets are easy to hack, and can put your kids directly within reach of cybercriminals. So which gifts made the Naughty List this year?

Hackers come home for Christmas

Security researchers found a number of vulnerabilities in smartwatch products and toys. The products are mostly cheap smart-tech items manufactured in China, and several appear to be the same product with different branding and logos.

The initial findings for the smartwatch products were discovered by researchers at Rapid7, a Boston-area cybersecurity firm. The group purchased three different models to test the security implications of their messaging and location tracking features.

They discovered the watches’ default passwords were “123456” and could be easily compromised. This simple password could allow hackers to track your child’s physical location and even send them messages or take control of the device.

Tap or click to see how weak passwords led to millions of accounts up for sale on the dark web

These watches are sold as the GreaSmart Children’s SmartWatchJsbaby Game Smart Watch and SmarTurtle Smart Watch for Kids. They were randomly selected from hundreds of similar products on Amazon, but following the findings, Amazon removed GreaSmart watches from their site.

Beware of cheap smart technology

The Amazon smartwatches weren’t the only insecure tech gadgets on sale this year. Consumer advocacy group Which? tested several smart toys and gifts for cybersecurity risks and found a startling number of vulnerabilities.

VTech, makers of several prominent products for young children, was singled out, thanks to the company’s KidiGear Walkie Talkies. These devices can be intercepted and hacked from up to 656 feet away, and can allow predators to engage in two-way conversations with children.

Products made by Xpassion/Tenva, Singing Machine, Bloxels and Sphero were found to have unique vulnerabilities of their own due to lax security settings. Bloxels and Sphero have no filters to prevent explicit language or images on their products’ online community, which can expose kids to inappropriate content.

How can I tell if my gift is vulnerable to hackers?

Aside from regularly keeping track of cybersecurity-related news, there are a few red flags you can look for when buying smart gadgets.

RELATED: Tap or click here for some smart gift ideas for your family from Amazon’s list of top sellers.

Always make sure the manufacturer is well known and that they have a detailed privacy policy you can examine online or inside an enclosed instruction manual. Check reviews for the product carefully, and make sure you only give the minimum amount of personal data, if any, when setting up the product.

Most importantly, keep an eye on your children when they’re playing with their new smart gadgets. By monitoring their activity, you can help set them on a path for smarter data habits. Also, be sure to turn the device completely off when it’s not in use. No point in leaving the door open for the next clever hacker.

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