Internet-connected Hello Barbie doll can be hacked

The iconic toy becomes a connected device, and promptly gets pegged for security issues.
  • Jared Newman (PC World (US online))
  • 07 December, 2015 20:17

In news that should surprise no one, connecting a toy to the Internet invites the risk of hacking.

So it went with Hello Barbie, which lets children converse with the doll over a cloud server connection. As reported by the Wall Street Journal, BlueBox Security and independent researcher Andrew Hay uncovered several vulnerabilities in the toy, the worst of which could allow an attacker to intercept a child’s communications.

The good news is that ToyTalk, which partnered with Mattel on Hello Barbie, has been very responsive to the findings according to BlueBox. The companies have already fixed many of the issues, which first came to their attention in mid-November.

Some of those issues pertained to the companion Hello Barbie app for iOS and Android. For instance, attackers could modify the app to reveal credential passwords and other confidential information. The app would also automatically connect to any unsecured Wi-Fi network with “Barbie” in the name, allowing an attacker to set up a spoof network and intercept data.

On the service side, ToyTalk’s server domain was susceptible to a known SSL encryption flaw called POODLE, which could allow attackers to steal communications and other data. A credentialing issue could also let attackers probe for further vulnerabilities.

BlueBox says these vulnerabilities prove the need for “self-defending apps,” which actively monitor for potential attacks. “If the mobile app is capable of defending itself against attack, then some of the issues found in this report could be inherently prevented,” BlueBox’s report said.

Why this matters: For Hello Barbie buyers, there probably isn’t much cause for alarm, given that the odds of an attack are fairly remote and most of the venues have already been cut off. But this case, along with the recent hack of VTech, underscore the broader potential risks of Internet-connected toys. For parents, it’s a scary path to go down, as no device maker can ever guarantee that their product is hack-proof. At best, these companies can only show that they’re quick to respond when vulnerabilities do arise.