Five million customers affected by Vtech database hack

3 Dec 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

Is There a Data Vampire Under Your Christmas Tree?.

A cyber-attack that was unleashed on digital toymaker VTech Holdings Ltd compromised the information of 6.4 million kids worldwide, the company stated on Tuesday, in what analysts dubbed as the largest recognized hacking incident aimed at children ever. VTech, the Hong Kong-based maker of popular learning toys and gadgets for kids, has inadvertently shown us the downside of storing personal information in the cloud.

The company which is based in Hong Kong quipped that the attack on its Learning Lodge app store databases and Kid Connect messaging system affected even more children than the 4.9 million adults that the company revealed on Friday. VTech has sold millions of its tablets, cameras, and other devices–including its InnoTab MAX learning tablet that connects via Wi-Fi to cloud computers. Security experts said that they anticipated the immense coverage of the breach would compel governments to examine VTech and host of other toy producers to assess their security. Markey (D–MA) and Congressman Joe Barton (R–TX), who just issued a letter — that definitely doesn’t double as a PR grab at all — calling on VTech to explain what kind of data they collect from kids under 12 and what they’re actually doing with it.

Seth Chromick, a threat analyst with network security firm vArmour stated that, “This breach is a parent’s nightmare of epic proportions.” He added that “A different approach to security for all organizations is needed.” Chris Wysopal, co-founder of cyber security firm Veracode, noted that the hack could serve as a wake up call for families in similar manner that the hack on cheating site Ashley Madison earlier this year made adults recognize that online information might not be secure. The personal information stolen, which was not encrypted, included names, email addresses, passwords, secret questions and answers for password retrieval, IP addresses, postal addresses, download histories and children’s names, genders and birth dates, according to VTech. VTech (better known as Hong Kong-based VTech Holdings) has until January 8 to proffer a response, though the company technically doesn’t have to respond at all. In addition to being able to exchange text and voice messages, photos, drawings and fun stickers with smart phones, VTech Kid Connect has been enhanced with new features such as group chat and family bulletin.

Shai Samet, a security expert who inspects toymakers for compliance with the U.S. government’s Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act, stated that he thinks that the case would pave the way for many toymakers to “rethink” their security protections on kid’s info. Technology site Motherboard, which first reported the cyber-attack a week ago, has issued a report that the person who claimed accountability for the hacking attack stated that “nothing” would happen to the exposed data. Stolen records such as credit card details and personal information are available online for around £1 each, while records and photos of minors could be worth considerably more on the darkweb, experts say.

Oh, don’t forget that the Samsung big screen TV that would make a perfect family gift is capturing what you say and sending it off to the cloud if you mistakenly enable voice recognition. As the VTech incident has shown us, those “benign,” Wi-Fi-enabled toys and appliances pitched to consumers with slick marketing by big business have a dark side.

Protecting your family against an invasion of data vampires isn’t difficult if you apply the basic premise of “buyer beware.” If the toy or appliance extols the virtues of being Wi-Fi enabled, connected to the Internet (or “cloud”) or brags how it “learns”, you can bet data it is being sucked from your home to big data servers owned by the folks who made the device. Armed with this understanding, consumers can decide whether the convenience of the appliance or the novelty of the toy is worth the risk to their family’s privacy.

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