‘Pictures of children’ ‘in Vtech hack

1 Dec 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

Children’s data exposed in VTech toy company hack.

COSTA MESA (CBSLA.com) — As many as 5 million parents and 200,000 children may have may have had their personal customer information hacked into over the site for the popular electronic learning product company, VTech.SAN FRANCISCO: Learning toy maker VTech Holdings on Monday said that millions of accounts and related children’s profiles were affected by a cyber attack on one of the Hong Kong-based company’s databases.

A hacker who gained access to the servers of Hong Kong electronic toymaker VTech obtained more than just the email addresses, passwords, and home addresses of nearly 5 million adults — he or she also found tens of thousands of photos of children. “Frankly, it makes me sick I was able to get all this stuff,” the hacker, who asked to remain anonymous, told Motherboard’s Lorenzo Franceschi-Bicchierai. “VTech should have the book thrown at them.” The hacker said some of the data came from VTech’s Kid Connect service, which lets parents using an app on their smart phones chat with their kids on a VTech tablet. On its website, VTech describes itself as the number one “player” in infant toys in Britain, France, Germany and Spain, and tops globally when it comes to electronic learning products for children. “We immediately conducted a thorough investigation, which involved a comprehensive check of the affected site and implementation of measures to defend against any further attacks,” VTech said. The stolen data included names and birthdates of children, mailing addresses, email addresses, as well as what e-books, learning games and other software were downloaded to toys, the company said in a statement posted online. The breached database contains user profile information including names, passwords, mailing addresses and “secret questions” for password retrieval, according to the company.

A report published in online magazine Motherboard cited the hacker as claiming that data easily swiped from the database included thousands of digital pictures or children and parents, and logs of their online chats. So, reverse engineering the software isn’t that hard.” VTech suggests that no credit card information or Social Security numbers were taken in this specific incident, but Plesco says VTech did not do enough to encrypt customers passwords and data. But the VTech breach shows this data isn’t always being guarded well. “Toy companies are rushing to cash in on the changing nature of childhood in the ‘big data’ era, where Internet-connected toys are linking children to a vast surveillance network,” said Jeffrey Chester, the executive director of the Center for Digital Democracy. “These playthings can monitor their every move, turning what should be innocent and pleasurable experience into something potentially more sinister.” VTech sells popular toys mainly for young toddlers, including its Sit-to-Stand Learning Walker, Baby’s Learning Laptop, and Kidizoom Smartwatch DX. The company took down the Learning Lodge website, and as of Monday, had left a message: “Due to a breach of security on our Learning Lodge website, we have temporarily suspended the site.” VTech is hardly the only company going high-tech. This holiday season, Fisher-Price has been hawking its Smart Toy Monkey as an “interactive learning buddy” that “talks, listens and remembers what your child says.” The new Hello Barbie, a doll that uses artificial intelligence to learn about children and carry on real-time conversations, was released earlier this month — raising alarm bells for some consumer protection watchdogs.

Mattel and ToyTalk, the company behind the doll’s voice features, have gone to great lengths to assure customers that information the doll collects will be safeguarded. Chester said he alerted the Federal Trade Commission to the incident over the weekend, hoping it will open an investigation into the company for violating the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act, a law designed to help protect the privacy of kids under age 12. If the agency were to investigate VTech, that investigation may be complicated by the international nature of the breach: The company is based in Hong Kong and it affected consumers from across the globe. Attorneys general in Connecticut and Illinois also said on Monday they would probe the breach, though their representatives declined comment on the focus of their inquiries.

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