Strangers ‘can use smart toys to message children’

A Furby character. Some toys pose a risk to child safety, a consumer group has said.
A Furby character. Some toys pose a risk to child safety, a consumer group has said.
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RETAILERS WERE last night urged to stop selling “connected toys” with security vulnerabilities that could he hacked to allow strangers to communicate with children.

The consumer group Which? said the popular Christmas gifts, which use wireless Bluetooth or wi-fi technology without passwords or other security, posed a risk to child safety.

It said tests had revealed “worrying security failures” with the Furby Connect, I-Que Intelligent Robot and other toys sold on high streets and online.

An investigation found that a would-be hacker needed no password and little technical knowledge to gain access to the toys and to start sharing messages with a child, which in some cases could be heard through a loudspeaker built into the toy.

Which? said it had now written to retailers asking them to stop selling toys “with proven security issues”.

Alex Neill, the organisation’s managing director of home products and services, said: “Connected toys are becoming increasingly popular, but as our investigation shows, anyone considering buying one should apply a level of caution.

“Safety and security should be the absolute priority with any toy. If that can’t be guaranteed, then the products should not be sold.”

The products include the Furby Connect, which was ranked as one of the “must have” toys for young children last Christmas.

It allows anyone within 10-30m of the toy to connect to it from a Bluetooth phone or laptop, and to make it play a custom audio file.

Which? also criticised the I-Que Intelligent Robot, which has previously appeared on Hamleys’ “top toys” Christmas list.

The talking robot uses Bluetooth to pair with a phone or tablet through an app. But the Which? investigation revealed that anyone could download the app, find a toy within Bluetooth range and start chatting using the robot’s voice by typing into a text field.

Vivid Imaginations, which distributes the robot, said there had been no reports of it having been “used in a malicious way”.

Hasbro, which makes the Furby Connect, said: “We feel confident in the way we have designed both the toy and the app to deliver a secure play experience.”