Why Gifting Your Kid a Smart Device This Christmas Might Not Be Such a Good Idea

What is the first vision that springs to mind when you think about Christmas? It is probably your family, parties, tons of food, and, of course, gifts. Christmas gifts may be a pain in the neck, especially if you are one of those last-minute shoppers and, even worse, have run out of gift ideas at the worst possible time. It is possible to have great Christmas without presents, but, as statistics show, people are not going to ditch them this Christmas. Not yet, at least. It is expected that U.S consumers will spend $794 on average on Christmas gifts this year.

62% of parents who participated in a survey admitted that they overspend on gifts for their children. Some of them buy expensive sneakers, sports inventory, books, drawing tools, and similar items based on the child's interests and extracurricular activities, whereas others prefer various smart devices more because children simply love them, and it is possible to purchase these fancy toys without stepping out of home – all popular online retailers sell them. Security specialists talk about virtual security more loudly than ever these days. Sadly, it is still quite a challenge to convince parents that these smart devices they present their kids with on Christmas day can put their safety and privacy at risk.

Smart devices are not evil, but they are far from flawless too, so if you are still thinking about giving your child one of the best tech gifts for Christmas this year, for example, a smartwatch, you must do your homework first. First of all, make sure you read a user manual (if you have not purchased the device yet, you can find its manual online). It is extremely important to understand how the device operates. Second, find out whether the smart device collects any information about its users. If the answer is "yes," make sure you know what exactly it collects. Third, you need to find out what the smart device does with the collected information.

According to experts, if you feel that it will take a century to decipher what is written in the toy's Privacy Policy, this is no doubt a red flag. Return such a smart device immediately if you have already bought it, or buy a more down-to-earth Christmas gift while you still have time. Your child may not thank you for this, but you will at least be sure that nobody is spying on them. Children safety is what we want to ensure in the first place, right?

A tech toy you have bought for Christmas could bring a hacker into your home

If you have not heard about any privacy problems linked to tech toys, it does not mean that they do not arise from time to time. One of the first examples is Hello Barbie, a doll that children can talk to over a cloud server connection. While it seemed to be a perfectly safe toy at first, specialists detected several vulnerabilities in it. They could have been exploited by hackers in order to steal actual snippets of conversation and other private data. The list goes on – the Barbie doll is only one of a bunch of hacked tech toys. Cute Internet-connected teddy bears called CloudPets were the reason privacy-related problems affected thousands of users in 2017. At that time, passwords, email addresses, profile pictures, and voice recordings of children and adults who had been using these fluffy toys were placed in an online database, making it possible for anyone interested to access them.

The most recent privacy scandal is linked to the recently released MiSafe smartwatches that have been designed to help parents find out where their children are using GPS. Unfortunately, it has turned out that history repeats itself – it is more likely that this smart device will push children into danger rather than keep them safer, a security researcher says. It has been found that the device does not encrypt private data and does not even secure a child's account, which may allow hackers to track children's location, listen to them illegally, and even make fake calls that imitate genuine calls from parents. How would you feel knowing that a cybercriminal tracks and spies on your child? We want to encourage you to consider whether buying a tech toy this year is really such a good idea.

Which tech gifts are best for Christmas this year

If we were you, we would ditch the smart device idea and purchase another practical toy this year, but we are no magicians able to change all people's opinions and plans. Luckily, we can still provide more information to parents about the best tech gifts for Christmas available on the market. Internet-connected toys are no doubt at the top of the list of the most commonly hacked toys. Once they are taken over by cybercriminals, they might be connected to a botnet and involved in various malicious activities, including denial-of-service-attacks (DoS) against websites. Therefore, if possible, you should buy a toy that does not rely on the Internet connection, or at least it can be easily disconnected from it.

Second, if possible, you should avoid toys that contain sensors, microphones, cameras, and other multimedia capabilities, including GPS and speech recognition, since they would all enable hackers to monitor your child's activities without difficulty if the toy is ever hacked successfully. Finally, it is advisable to buy only those smart devices that have a password. Even though passwords are not immune to cracking too, they considerably improve devices' security, so setting a password on your kid's brand new smart toy would definitely result in improved privacy and security. It should be emphasized that many of these smart devices come with a default username and password. If you leave them as they are, even the most inexperienced hackers could hack them in a split second.

Bonus Tip: Generating a strong password manually for a smart device may be a real nightmare, but, luckily, there is Cyclonis Password Manager that is willing to take over this job from you. Its Password Generator is a lifesaver when it comes to securing online accounts, various devices, and hiding personal information from prying eyes. It will generate a secure password for you automatically!

To sum up, not all Internet-connected toys are insecure and can cause privacy issues, but they could expose your child to privacy problems, so ask yourself whether another smart device is really a must this Christmas before you click the 'Add to Cart' button or pick up the ordered item at a brick-and-mortar store. Hackers are not your only concern here. Some companies behind smart devices may not ensure your child's privacy too. Some of them are just interested in revenue from selling devices and, on top of that, may sell personal information recorded with the help of the smart device to get even more money.

November 28, 2018

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