Flaws in smart toy back-end servers puts kids and their families at risk

The vulnerabilities would have given attackers access to children's names, birth dates, gender and even location

Over the past two years security researchers have shown that many Internet-connected "smart" devices have not been designed with security in mind. This also seems to be the case for their back-end systems.

The latest example are flaws found in the Web services operated by smart-toy makers which could expose children's personal information and location.

Researchers from security firm Rapid7 found serious vulnerabilities in the Web application programming interfaces (APIs) used by the Smart Toy line of interactive stuffed animals and the hereO GPS watch for children.

In the case of Smart Toy devices, the researchers found that the manufacturer's Web service did not properly validate request senders. Through the exposed APIs, they could enumerate all customers and find their toy ID, name, type and associated child profile; they could access all children's profiles, including their names, birth dates, gender and spoken languages; they could find out when a parent or child is interacting with their toy and could associate someone's toy with a different account, effectively hijacking it.

"Most clearly, the ability for an unauthorized person to gain even basic details about a child (e.g. their name, date of birth, gender, spoken language) is something most parents would be concerned about," Rapid7 researcher Mark Stanislav said in a blog post. "While in the particular, names and birthdays are nominally non-secret pieces of data, these could be combined later with a more complete profile of the child in order to facilitate any number of social engineering or other malicious campaigns against either the child or the child's caregivers."

The hereO GPS watch allows members of a family to keep track of each other's location and activities and to perform other interactions such as messaging. The back-end Web service used by the platform provided an API for inviting a person to an existing family group, but did not perform proper verification.

The vulnerability could have allowed an attacker to add a rogue account to an existing family group and to confirm its addition on the family's behalf. The attacker would then have access to every family member's active location, as well as location history, and could abuse other platform features, Stanislav said.

The vulnerabilities found in both the Smart Toy and hereO devices were reported to their respective manufacturers with the help of the CERT Division at Carnegie Mellon University. Since these were server-side issues, they were patched by the manufacturers directly on their servers and did not require firmware updates for the actual devices.

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