Our first grandchild is nearly a year old, and already fascinated with not only his toys, but with his Mom’s iPhone and iPad.
Imagine how magical the new toys coming onto the market will be when intersecting with applications, including charming robots who can help children learn their ABCs, and online tutors who can interact via video collaboration to providing tutoring and encouragement.
Some analysts predict there will be ten connected devices in our homes by 2025 on average, going well beyond Nest, Smart Refrigerators, virtual doorbells and more. As more and more service providers start to bundle digital home services with devices, these smart things on the Internet of Things will continually blend into our human experience – and they will change the way our children and grandchildren live, learn, think, grow and love.
Already we are seeing smart things not only making life more safe and convenient, but being hacked. So when you set up a baby monitor in order to improve your baby’s well-being and safety – are you sure the security is in place so predators cannot hack in?
As your infant grows and you splurge on electronic toys, consider the now infamous VTech breach. In 2015, police arrested a 21 year-old man for hacking into the personal data for 12 million people, including over 6 million minors. Among the stolen data – names, photos, email addresses, passwords, profile information, and data including children’s names, genders and dates of birth. (Hackers often use young people’s information to set up fake identities, apply for credit, and more) VTech admitted they were not using SSL or password encryption for their children’s tablet line.
And the hacker told Vice’s Motherboard blog that he did not hack to use or sell the data, but to show how easy it was to breach the Vtech system using a simple hacking technique called an SQL injection, in which hackers enter commands that prompt a database to expose its content.
What happened next was a security nightmare. You are looking at 6.4 million exposed children. Millions of children have “lost” their data. Their names, their emails, their downloads, their passwords, the IP addresses, photos, password recovery info, audio and video recording.
Thank goodness companies have developed software to protect children from access to dangerous content, while law enforcement continues to roll out “honeypot” tactics to catch and jail predators.
Let’s learn a lesson from that and start solving for the inevitable by creating security measures associated with digital toys and devices designed for children.
It’s time for us to move up from the “Internet of Things” to the “Exchange of Everything,” spending time and money understanding what our continual digital lives will be and what that will mean for our children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren. There is so much value being created – let’s learn from the past that it’s incumbent upon those of us in the real time communications and technology industries to add equal measure of security and policy to innovation and value creation.
Here are five actions we can rally around together:
1. Companies who create digital toys should pledge their commitment to data security
2. Communications service providers should ensure additional support for homes where children are present
3. Extend this commitment across the ecosystem – devices, sensors, connectivity, cloud services, data analytics, reporting and product evolution is valuable but in no event should an private data be exposed
4. Give parents full control just as the cable, digital TV, broadband, email and other industries have done; but now make sure if there is a camera or microphone on a child’s tablet, for example, parents can lock them down
5. Support ongoing and timely legislation that mandates security and protections before new products go to market
It’s unpleasant for us to have to think about these things. But it is productive to think in advance and work together to create standards up front for a digital and connected world of toys before something devastating happens to even one family.
One of the most thrilling aspects of technology today is that not only can it make our lives more enjoyable, healthy, interactive and fun – but it can also help us make sure none of the positives are offset by “the dark side.”