Christmas Toys Could Be Spying on You

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Many people had a feeling of nostalgia when Mattel upgraded its classic Fisher-Price Chatter telephone for its 60th anniversary in October with Bluetooth capabilities, so adults could relive their childhood and use it for making mobile calls. But flaws in the way the toy pairs with Bluetooth means that hackers can potentially be listening in on private conversations. Security flaws in the 60th anniversary Fisher-Price Chatter Bluetooth telephone allows nearby hackers to spy on calls or communicate with children using the device.

The flaw was discovered by a team at Pen Test Partners. The Fisher Price toy has no secure pairing process, which allows anyone nearby to listen in. When powered on, it just connects to any Bluetooth device in range that requests to pair. And even though the Bluetooth version of the toy was marketed for adults, parents may hand it down to their children when the novelty wears off and put their children at risk from child predators.

Chatter's Bluetooth flaw doesn't enable the audio until someone lifts the handset or presses the speakerphone button. If it is on and the handset is left off, the Chatter phone will auto answer any incoming phone call to the connected smartphone. This effectively turns the phone into an audio bug.

This isn't the only case of toys being vulnerable due to poor Bluetooth implementation. There was a problem in My Friend Cayla, which is a doll that works as a Bluetooth headset. In Cayla, the vulnerability allows hackers within Bluetooth range to connect a Bluetooth audio device and listen to the doll's microphone, or speak through its speaker to a child playing with the doll. The Chatter phone will also ring if the attached smartphone rings. This means that a hacker can simply use two phones to create a two way radio if a child answers the phone.

Parents who have the Bluetooth version of Chatter should make sure that it is off when not in use and supervise their child's when using the phone. Parent should not leave the Chatter phone on when they leave their home with the smartphone since only one phone can be paired with the device at a time. Also, because the audio in the Chatter phone will only allow bugging if the handset is off the cradle or the speakerphone button is pressed, parents should make sure that the handset is always replaced and the phone is turned off.