Are music and radio boxes safe?

This can lead to data protection and security vulnerabilities that parents may not be aware of. Security expert Ildikó Bruhns of Saferkidsonline explains the potential risks and gives general advice so that your smart playmates don’t turn into spies or a youth network with strangers.

Cloud instead of cassette: Radio playback listeners are more transparent

There are a number of networked sound boxes on the market that have long moved into children’s rooms at home. The operating concepts of these musical cubes vary, but are generally designed for the abilities of preschool children. But unlike old cassette players or CD players, modern audiobooks and music boxes don’t require audio stands.

“In the childhood of today’s generation of parents, neither cassette player manufacturers nor radio play producers knew anything about their customers’ listening habits. However, with most modern sound boxes, nothing works without creating a user account,” says Ildeco Bruns of Saferkidsonline. “However, once you use the digital cube, the various data flow through the ether.” With networked audio boxes, this can include playback events such as changing the volume, winding, skipping, plugging in/unplugging headphones, plugging in/unplugging the charging station, and what content being played becomes.

In addition, each operating step is usually logged for reasons of product improvement. When setting up a voice box and after adding another WLAN, the available networks and the connected network (SSID) are also transferred. In many cases, a connection to the cloud and the Internet is also required for the first playback of a radio theater, but it also works every time without the Internet.

Helps have a look at the privacy policy

The good news is that, for example, the manufacturer of a popular radio playback box transparently lists the data transmissions described above in its data protection declaration. Anyone who chooses a sound box of this type knows exactly what they are getting into. Personal data will not expressly be transferred to third parties and will be processed in accordance with the provisions of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). However, the company reserves the right to randomly listen to content that it has created itself. On the one hand, this is important, for example, to record copyright violations or competition, but on the other hand, there is a chance that employees will learn things that do not interest them.

The constant association between a device and its manufacturer’s services carries another risk: if it ever goes out of the market, its devices will also remain silent. At worst, parents have a cube in the house that has literally lost its sound and can no longer save any new content. But the danger exists in many cloud-based devices and services.

Unlike talking dolls and listening dinosaurs, hacker attacks on these sound boxes have been purely theoretical so far – perhaps also because the benefit to cybercriminals will be disproportionate to the effort. Since the sound boxes have neither cameras nor microphones, eavesdropping and spying on children’s rooms is not possible.

However, hacker attacks on smart games are nothing short of fiction. Hackers stole customer data from a well-known educational computer manufacturer in the past. The Federal Network Agency has also taken action against the smart doll that not only has a conversation with children, but also eavesdrops on them.

Connected game tips:

  • Find out before you buy About the functionality of the game. Does it have a camera, microphone, WiFi or Bluetooth connection?
  • Check setting options In terms of security and privacy:
    • Are security updates released regularly and installed automatically?
    • Can I manually turn off WiFi and Bluetooth when not in use?
    • Can the microphone and camera function be disabled?
    • Does the camera record location data via GPS?
    • Are there additional settings to protect children?
  • Disable bluetooth when not in use: The locked Bluetooth device cannot be attacked from outside and no one can connect to it secretly. The function should be set to “invisible”. Make sure that sent files are not automatically received, but that consent must be given. In addition, the Bluetooth interface of web-enabled games must be password-protected (you can find information on the manufacturer’s website if necessary).
  • Read the privacy policy carefully So you know what data the manufacturer collects for game functions, for what purpose and how it is stored or processed.
  • Only reveal the most important information And check the permissions, for example, the associated app requires. If it wants to access all kinds of functions that are not necessary to run the game, then you have to be careful.
  • Get your child to know the game. Explain to him that it is not a “normal” beloved game, but that it works differently. You can also accompany your child on his way to the digital world.
  • Make rules: If the smart game has a camera or microphone, it is important to agree on where and when the game will be used. This way you can be sure that no “movement features” are registered to your apartment.

More information and advice is available at Saferkidsonline.de

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