Tech toys pose a real cyber-security threat, yet the lack of action by industry and government remains astounding

1 min read

Last week, news emerged that Amazon and eBay were looking to pull a brand of cuddly toy from sale. Not because they were badly made, or made from a toxic substance, but rather because they pose a serious cyber-security threat.

It was discovered last year that CloudPets products, produced by Spiral Toys, were recording their users’ voices and storing them, unprotected, online.

While the company said at the time that it would be taking swift action to deal with the problem, research commissioned by the non-profit Mozilla Foundation, which develops the Firefox browser, found other vulnerabilities.

Among them hackers could trigger their own recordings to spy on owners.

Consumer goods are proving to be a source of real vulnerability - names, mailing addresses, email addresses, IP addresses, download histories, the genders and birth dates, pictures of the victims, chats conducted between parents and their children have all been hacked.

So, while it’s great to see retailers acting responsibly, what took them so long to respond to an issue that was raised over a year ago?

Retailers have an important role in promoting cyber-security, they can refuse to sell products and, by doing so, may be able to help force designers and manufacturers to take the threat posed to users’ security and privacy far more seriously, than hitherto, has been the case.

But they need to act quickly when problems are identified, especially in a world where data leaks and breaches are becoming more common.

But it’s not just you every-day consumer goods that pose a risk. There’s a growing call for sex toys to be regulated over concerns about the security of “smart” technology used in these devices.

There seems to be a shocking amount of complacency around the security of these consumer devices, both on the part of Government and industry.

As one Labour opposition shadow minister recently said: “Every scenario gets more and more depressing and dystopian, and the lack of action is astounding.”