Thursday, December 10, 2015

Toys for Tots: Effects of the VTech Hack

Before all of you parents go running out to your closest toy store (if you haven’t already) to get your child one of the latest tech toys from VTech, there are a couple things that you may want to be aware of.  First and foremost is the fact that in November VTech was hacked and was found to be storing the personal data of roughly 5.2 million people, mostly adults but children too. The second is that some of the information that was accessed contained a significant amount of chat logs and pictures that are part of VTech’s Kid Connect service, which allows parents to text or chat with their children using the VTech tablet via a smartphone app.  So many might be thinking, “Chat logs and pictures? What’s the big deal?”  Well, I can think of many mischievous ways in which our cyber connected world can use this data. 
What immediately comes to mind is the hack that has highest rate of success: social engineering. Social engineering is “is a non-technical method of intrusion hackers use that relies heavily on human interaction and often involves tricking people into breaking normal security procedures” (social engineering definition). Having a wealth of information about the potential target increases the chances of success exponentially because you already have plenty of conversation starters to craft that “trust relationship” by creating small talk.  The other thing that comes to mind is identity theft.  Not in the near future, but later down the road.  If the hackers that gleaned that information wanted, they could potentially have more than enough identities to defraud for years to come.  All it would take is patience and just holding onto the children’s information for a few years until they come of age and then you cleverly start down the list of potential targets who will have long since forgotten, and perhaps never even knew that a significant amount of their personal data had been compromised many years back.

Well, I suppose that perhaps maybe it’s not that big of a deal though when in today’s day and age it’s the social norm for personal lives of people to be on display for the world to see on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram.  So is it really any wonder that we have all of the cybercrime that we do?  I don’t think so.  If anything, I’m surprised that there isn’t more of it.  I say that we’ve created a Cyber-Cedar Point for hackers where our lives are the main amusement of the park.  It’s not a matter of if the hackers will take a spin, it’s a matter of when the line dwindles down enough for them to get on board.  I honestly wonder sometimes if it’s a lack of security awareness or if it’s really that people just don’t care. 

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