German regulators have banned the sale of smartwatches for kids because they are more of a spying device than a toy and they are urging parents who were not aware of the security risks of these internet-enabled devices to destroy them.
The European Consumer Organization (BEUC) warned that smartwatches marketed towards children are a serious threat to their privacy. A report published by a Norwegian Consumer Council last October showed serious flaws in these devices that could easily allow hackers to seize control.
If the device was compromised, attackers could have real-time and historical location data, as well as other personal information.
Think about it: attaching a low-cost, internet-enabled microphone and GPS tracker to a kid is not a good idea. Almost all of the companies offering these “toys” have implemented reasonable security standards. They don’t even promise that the data that they collet -from your children- won’t be used for marketing purposes.
Smartwatches marketed to children ages five to 12 typically have functions similar to that of a smartphone: voicemail, contact lists, making and receiving calls. One of the smartwatch brands was even found by BEUC transmitting children’s locations to servers in China without any form of encryption.
Parents typically thought that by having these smartwatches on their kids, they can have a way to safely track them, but once a device is hijacked, an attacker could contact the children directly without them knowing it. Parents are unaware that instead of protecting their children, the smartwatches were leaving them vulnerable.
Security companies have warned about the dangers of disguising IoT devices as toys. Once particular device that could be worrisome are those Internet-enabled cameras that parents use to monitor their kids when they are not at home. Most of video feeds are unsecure and can be hijacked by virtually anyone.
The FBI even issued a public service announcement warning that smart toys containing microphones, cameras, or GPS devices are dangerous to children’s privacy and physical safety.
“In some cases, toys with microphones could record and collect conversations within earshot of the device. Information such as the child’s name, school, likes and dislikes, and activities may be disclosed through normal conversation with the toy or in the surrounding environment,” the FBI said.