Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Internet Connected Toys May Be The Newest Threat to Your Children

According to a public service announcement released by the FBI this week your child's internet connected toys may be a major threat to not only their privacy but their safety!

In the PSA the FBI warns that "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." In addition to personal information that may be obtained the FBI warns that more specific details, such as GPS locations, visual identifiers and information used by other family member when creating user accounts could readily be obtained!

The collection of a child’s personal information combined with a toy’s ability to connect to the Internet or other devices raises concerns for privacy and physical safety. Personal information (e.g., name, date of birth, pictures, address) is typically provided when creating user accounts. In addition, companies collect large amounts of additional data, such as voice messages, conversation recordings, past and real-time physical locations, Internet use history, and Internet addresses/IPs. The exposure of such information could create opportunities for child identity fraud. Additionally, the potential misuse of sensitive data such as GPS location information, visual identifiers from pictures or videos, and known interests to garner trust from a child could present exploitation risks. 

As with all internet connected devices, (including your smart phone, smart TV, home assistant ect) data collected from interactions with your devices is typically collected, sent and stored by the manufacturer or developer via server or cloud service. In some cases, it is also collected by third-party companies who manage the voice recognition software used in the toys or connected devices. Voice recordings, toy Web application (parent app) passwords, home addresses, Wi-Fi information, or sensitive personal data could be exposed if the security of the data is not sufficiently protected with the proper use of digital certificates and encryption when it is being transmitted or stored.

Smart toys generally connect to the Internet either:

  • Directly, through Wi-Fi to an Internet-connected wireless access point; or
  • Indirectly, via Bluetooth to an Android or iOS device that is connected to the Internet.

The FBI warns that cyber security measures used in the toy, the toy’s partner applications, and the Wi-Fi network on which the toy connects directly impacts the overall user security. Communications connections where data is encrypted between the toy, Wi-Fi access points, and Internet servers that store data or interact with the toy are crucial to mitigate the risk of hackers exploiting the toy or possibly eavesdropping on conversations/audio messages. Bluetooth-connected toys that do not have authentication requirements (such as PINs or passwords) when pairing with the mobile devices could pose a risk for unauthorized access to the toy and allow communications with a child user. It could also be possible for unauthorized users to remotely gain access to the toy if the security measures used for these connections are insufficient or the device is compromised.

Parents are being urged to examine user agreements and privacy policies (we know too well that some of us click through blindly and agree to those terms) and investigate whether data is shared with third parties and how it's handled in the cloud. Toys should also only be connected to the internet over secure Wi-Fi networks and not connected blindly to open networks, or in some cases trusted networks with highly clone-able names (ie Xfinitywifi).  Additionally, the FBI suggests that you report cases whereas you migght suspect your child’s toy may have been compromised by filing a complaint with the Internet Crime Complaint Center, at www.IC3.gov.

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Review: Paby Smart Pet Locator and Activity Tracker

Whether it be from the fright of 4th of July fireworks, a door or gate accidentally left open, or just a stubborn pooch that doesn't like to come when called, for animal lovers there is nothing worse than losing your furry little friend! Given today's technology tracking down your pet is easier than ever, and today we have a newly launched option that will do just that and more.

The Paby GPS tacker is a real-time smart tracker that monitors a pet’s location and activity utilizing a combination of advanced 3G GPS (cellular), LBS (Location Based Services) and Wi-Fi technologies. Which unlike many of the trackers we've reviewed before, and many on the market, means you can track your dog or cat (or child) just about anywhere at anytime!

Paby is a small durable and waterproof device that offers not only a smart tracker, but RGB LED flashing light for added pet safety and a high fidelity waterproof speaker that plays a sound to alert the user (via the mobile app) when their pet is nearby.

The GPS tracker incorporates the latest battery technology with a gel state polymer lithium ion battery and is built to last with PC ABS, laser direct structuring, UV coating and in-mold decoration.

Getting started with Paby the things you need to know!

Paby requires a cellular network connection to properly track your pet. It isn't required and you will have some functionality by using Wi-Fi, however I strongly suggest adding on a mobile data plan. Without it, if your pet wanders out of a Wi-Fi area, you'll be out of luck.

For this you have two options - Option 1: Paby comes with a free SIM card and offers network subscription plans starting at $4.99 per month at http://www.paby.com/plan/ (those purchasing an annual network service plan through Paby will receive 30 days of free service). Option 2: customers with AT&T and T-Mobile have the option to use their existing wireless network.

Setting Up Your Paby

All your tracking and features will be controlled through Paby's free App (iOS and Android). The App itself is fairly intuitive and pretty straight forward. Before you get started I'd suggest reviewing the FAQ and doing a quick once over with the App just to familiarize yourself with the features. From my experience the icons aren't very descriptive and the manual is limited on explanations as to what they do.

Once you have the App installed, make sure you charge your device to full capacity. From there pairing is fairly straight fwd. Once the device is paired the App will allow you to view custom reports and alerts, designate virtual fences to sound alerts and set sound or LED alerts. All tracking and locations are shown via Google Maps, with a detailed view of location history charting where your pet has been on a given day.

For those that want to keep their pets healthy and active Paby offers additional features such as a health monitoring system which tracks steps, sleep and intensity of work out/play time and daily exercise recommendations based on your pet’s breed, weight and age.

Testing and Conclusion

We tested out Paby tracker out over the course of a couple weeks and were pleasantly surprised at how well it performed. Tracking was very precise and the activity tracker worked well. During most of our testing battery life was a little on the weak side, but that may be attributed to us putting it through more rigorous testing and using more features than normal. Overall we saw plenty of power for two to three days of variable testing, plenty for most tracking situations.

As mentioned we did have a few issues with working out what each of the icons on the menu screen does, but once we worked that out things went smoothly. I had a few problems with getting alerts to work properly, and would have liked to have seen a dedicated alerts button for one time alerts rather than having to turn them on and leave them on through the tacking function. Ideally, with one time alerts, I could train my dog to check-in with me (hunting dog style).  he LED's function great and offer a nice touch for walking your dog or keeping an eye on them in the yard at night.

At $79.99 the Paby comes in pretty much in range with other options out there, but it is one of the few we saw with magnetic charging, IP67 water-resistant rating, LED lighting and a decent design set. It comes available in a variety of colors and patterns seen above (“Spider Red,” “Future Green,” “Allstar,” “Midnight Black” and “Bubble Pink”)  and is available now at www.paby.com. All in all I can definitely give it a nod as being worth the price when it comes to piece of mind for you pet owners!