be aware of smart home devices

Loes Knetsch ©

Splendid! A lovely Barbie doll for your children who answers their questions! A wristwatch who tells you about the whereabouts of your child. Or a little “postman” which enables you to talk to your toddler. European consumer organizations have ringed the alarm after studies conducted by the Norwegian Consumer hackers. Everything your children are saying to Cayla is sent to an American company specializing in speech recognition.

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Cayla, the doll who talks back

Be aware of home, smart watches, and tracking devices

But not only the children’s toys you should be aware of but also your home devices, as solar panels and the smart thermostat. Surveillance cameras which are hacked give hackers a direct image of your home situation. They see you walk through your house, they see your wife and children. But they also see when you’re not at home.

Companies who Connect devices to the Internet

There is a hype of devices on the market connected to the internet by companies. Companies, who haven’t the faintest idea of security codes. They create a free market for hackers and scammers, burglars and thieves. It is very easy for hackers to enter your home nowadays with default codes like 0000 or 888888. Manufacturers of cheaper devices have “too few incentives” to keep the security in order. Updates could fix bugs in the software, for example, so that hackers can not enter through a back door, but it doesn’t happen. “Manufacturers see it as a “waste of money.” The product is sold, the money is collected.

Where should you look for?

When you purchase a doll, or a solar panel with a smart card device, or a surveillance system, or smart children’s watches with GPS, or anything that is connected to the internet, be sure you can change the security code. Also, be aware of whether they are storing data intern or extern. An open connection to some company who isn’t painstaking careful of the importance of security codes, you really do not want to give access to your home.

Safety and security don't just happen, they are the result of collective consensus and public investment. We owe our children, the most vulnerable citizens in our society, a life free of violence and fear. — Nelson Mandela Click To Tweet

How do hackers work?

It’s a horrible thought, that Cayla, the doll is going to give a pedophile the chance to digital lure your children, or that thieves can listen quietly, in your house, and try their luck when everyone has gone to bed. There are examples of hackers who do want to hit on individuals. Some criminals are interested in personal data of children, to use them for identity theft. Others turn on webcams from teenage girls to spy on them, which can lead to blackmail or extortion.

The rights of consumers

Consumers are not standing strong in the courtroom, The manufacturer is only liable if there occurs great physical or economic damage. When video’s of children are appearing on the Internet, you can have difficulties to prove to a judge that you have suffered physical pain. The responsibility for protecting, purchase and use of these devices is still entirely with the consumer.

Smart Watches or tracking devices to track down everything

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Nb. For some devices, you do need to download special apps.

Tile Mate:

Tile is not recommended for keeping track of children or people. It works with BlueTooth and has a limited range.

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Buy your tracking devices at Bol.com
(Shipping electronic devices only in The Netherlands and Belgium)

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  1. Chris says:

    Wow this was a really worrying read – and a complete eye opener from my family’s home point of view! 

    How long has this sort of thing been going on for? I guess hackers must have had a field day when they realised homes were going so digital and accessible. 

    Where would you advise going online if you want to find out more about the products that are effected by this?

    • Loes says:

      Hi Chris, I would say that people should contact the manufacturer and asked them how to protect their devices. There is a lot of rubbish on the market from unknown companies who do not take their responsibilities to keep the devices safe.

      Loes

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