As technology evolves, so do the risks facing us from hackers and identity thieves. In the age of the Internet of Things (IoT), where everything is connected, one of the newest threats is one facing those most vulnerable – our children.
For the past several years we’ve seen the increasing popularity of smart toys, or interactive toys that connect to the internet via a shared network or Bluetooth. While these flashy, high-tech gizmos are in-demand, they can also expose your children and family to cybercriminals. Some smart toys have security flaws that leave them vulnerable to hacking. They have features such as sensors, cameras, microphones, data storage, and GPS – which can all serve as a gateway to a potential hacker. For example, images that are shared contain data that lets others see where all those photos were taken. These photos that your children may be taking provide insight into their past (and future) location through the photos’ EXIF data.
Smart toys can easily expose personal information and provide cybercriminals with the means to learn your child’s name and date of birth, find your address, see photos of your children and the inside of your home, listen into conversations, and more. And, since kids are defenseless, they make a prime target for identity thieves.
The thought of a stranger spying on your children and family is frightening enough, but the potential damages are truly scary. Child identity theft can go unchecked and unnoticed for years since their personal records won’t be used until they are older; for example, when your child attempts to apply for student loans, file taxes or to open their first credit card. There’s no telling just how long it could take to restore their good name and credit.
The FBI has issued warnings that parents must consider cybersecurity prior to introducing internet-connected toys to their homes. One major piece of advice from their warnings is to look for smart toys that are certified by the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA). An additional recommendation is to read the End User Agreement for any toy you consider purchasing. This will help you understand the nature of data it collects, and how the data is collected and stored. Making sure that you buy from a responsible manufacturer is step one to protecting your child’s privacy.
Nobody is exempt from identity theft. According to a study by Carnegie Mellon University’s CyLab, children are 51 times more likely to be a victim of identity theft than adults. With the popularity of smart toys expected to continue to rise, parents need to be diligent about how and where their children’s information is shared.
Did You Know?
- Over 20 states in the U.S. require credit bureaus to help parents create credit reports for their children for the express purpose of freezing it.
- There are approximately 500,000 victims of child identity theft each year
- 6% of all identity theft victims are under the ages of 20
Although child identity theft is becoming more common, your family doesn’t have to be a victim. One way you can fight back is signing up for IdentityForce’s ChildWatch. For just $2.75/month, accompanying an adult membership, ChildWatch provides thorough and ongoing monitoring of your child’s identity.