Security Flaws In Child Smartwatches Could Allow Hackers To Track, Eavesdrop

By
&
Aliza Vigderman Gabe Turner Chief Editor
Last Updated on Dec 2, 2020
By Aliza Vigderman & Gabe Turner on Dec 2, 2020

A new study on smartwatches made for children has revealed a number of serious security flaws, some of which could allow hackers to:

  • Track the devices
  • Take a picture on a watch’s camera
  • Eavesdrop on a child’s conversation
  • Communicate with a child

The study was done by the Norwegian Consumer Council.1 The NCC examined the Gator 2, Tinitell, Viksfjord, and Xplora smartwatches. While these are known to be popular in Norway, it’s possible to find some of these watches on sale in the U.S., as well. Additionally, some of these manufacturers use different names in different countries for the same products. (Tinitell has released a statement2 noting that their company’s watch was the safest in the study, which has led the company to claim to be the “most secure solution on the market.”)

Top Child Smartwatches To Avoid

The Gator 2 and the Viksfjord smartwatches had the most obvious security flaws, with both prone to account takeovers and location spoofing. The Viksfjord smartwatch could also be turned into a “remotely controllable listening device, or alternately provides means for an attacker to communicate directly with the child.” Nevertheless, all of the watches seem to have a number of issues when it comes to how the companies store personal data and how it is used.

The NCC also found that safety features on the smartwatches were poorly implemented and unreliable, giving parents a false sense of security. Moreover, the NCC questioned these manufacturers, saying they “do not have the will or the means to make safe products.” Consumer groups in the U.S. will be following up on the NCC’s findings, the Norwegian group claims.

Are There Any Safe Child Smartwatches?

In the NCC’s full study, the consumer group concludes that “Overall, we have uncovered many serious problems with smartwatches for children. It seems clear that consumers currently should think twice before purchasing these or similar devices.” This study makes us skeptical about the security of child smartwatches in general, even smartwatches from more well-known companies in the U.S.

How To Use Child Smartwatches Safety

When it comes to protecting kids online, we’re not just talking about desktops and phones anymore. We’re also talking about IoT devices, which are becoming more and more commonplace as time goes on. If you research a child smartwatch that doesn’t have any security vulnerabilities, to the manufacturers’ knowledge, then by all means, buy away. But be sure to adhere to some of the best digital security practices.

In our password habit research, we found some pretty alarming numbers: nearly half of Americans use passwords with eight or less characters, while a quarter of Americans share their passwords with others. That being said, the easiest way to prevent your child’s smartwatch from being hacked is to create a password for it that’s long and unique to its account. And, if the online account allows for it, turn on authentication methods. To learn more, read our authentication guide.

Child Smartwatch Alternatives

If you want to be on the safe side and avoid child smartwatches completely, there are other ways to track your child’s location, like secure tracking apps or Bluetooth trackers.

Child Tracking Apps

The main reason that most parents buy child smartwatches in the first place is to track their locations, but if your child has a phone, there are a number of apps that can serve that purpose. Our favorites are Find My Kids, Must-Have App for Parents and Family Tracker, all available for Android and iOS devices alike.

Bluetooth Trackers

If you don’t want your child to have a phone, instead, give them a Bluetooth tracker to stay with them at all times. The Chipolo GO, for example, can detect your child from anywhere in the world using a combination of GPS, Bluetooth, LTE technology and Wi-Fi. Rechargeable, this Bluetooth tracker has a six-month battery life.
There’s no doubt that the world is a scarier place than it was when you were growing up, and with technology comes increased risks of cyber attacks. However, technology can be your friend or your foe, so make sure to follow best practices and research pro

Citations
  1. Forbruker Redet. (2017). Sig­ni­fi­cant security flaws in smart­watch­es for child­ren.
    forbrukerradet.no/side/significant-security-flaws-in-smartwatches-for-children/

  2. Tinitell. (2017). Official Statement in Response to The Norwegian Consumer Council Report.
    tinitell.com/official-tinitell-statement-in-response-to-the-norwegian-consumer-council-report/