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Got a toy that can spy? Here’s how to know and what to do

FBI said said internet-connected toys with microphones, cameras or location tracking may put a child..

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  • FBI said said internet-connected toys with microphones, cameras or location tracking may put a child's privacy or safety at risk
  • Experts say covering cameras and only connecting to secure wifi can help

By Associated Press

Published: 12:07 EST, 21 December 2017 | Updated: 16:24 EST, 21 December 2017

The toys your kids unwrap this Christmas could invite hackers into your home.

That Grinch-like warning comes from the FBI, which said earlier this year that toys connected to the internet could be a target for crooks who may listen in on conversations or use them to steal a child's personal information.

The bureau did not name any specific toys or brands, but it said any internet-connected toys with microphones, cameras or location tracking may put a child's privacy or safety at risk.

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Modern kids toys often include cameras, microsphones and other sensors - which hackers could be using to spy. Security experts said the only way to prevent a hack is to not keep the toy - but reveal how you can minimise risks

Modern kids toys often include cameras, microsphones and other sensors – which hackers could be using to spy. Security experts said the only way to prevent a hack is to not keep the toy – but reveal how you can minimise risks

That could be a talking doll or a tablet designed for kids.

And because some of the toys are being rushed to be made and sold, the FBI said security safeguards might be overlooked.

Security experts said the only way to prevent a hack is to not keep the toy.

But if you decide to let a kid play with it, there are ways to reduce the risks.

Below, some tips:

RESEARCH, RESEARCH, RESEARCH

Before opening a toy, search for it online and read reviews to see if there are any complaints or past security problems.

If there have been previous issues, you may want to rethink keeping it.

Reputable companies will also explain how information is collected from the toy or device, how that data is stored and who has access to it.

Usually that type of information is found on the company's website, typically under its privacy policy.

If you can't find it, call the company. If there isn't a policy, that's a bad sign.

"You shouldn't use it," said Behnam Dayanim, a partner at Paul Hastings in Washington, and co-chair of the law firm's privacy and cybersecurity practice.

Companies can change their privacy policies, so read them again if you're notified of a change.

Shoppers browse at a Toys R Us store in Miami. The toys your kids unwrap this Christmas could invite hackers into your home, experts have warnedShoppers browse at a Toys R Us store in Miami. The toys your kids unwrap this Christmas could invite hackers into your home, experts have warned

Shoppers browse at a Toys R Us store in Miami. The toys your kids unwrap this Christmas could invite hackers into your home, experts have warned

USE SECURE WI-FI

Make sure the Wi-Fi the toy will be connected to is secure and has a hard-to-guess password.

Weak passwords make it easier for hackers to access devices that use the Wi-Fi. Network.

Never connect the toy to free Wi-Fi that's open to the public.

And if the toy itself allows you to create a password, do it.

POWER IT OFF

When the toy is not being used, shut it off or unplug it so it stops collecting data.

"They become less of an attractive target," said Alan Brill, who is a cybersecurity and investigations managing director at consulting firm Kroll in Secaucus, New Jersey.

And if the item has a camera, face it toward a wall or cover it with a piece of tape when it's not being used.

Toys with microphones can be thrown in a chest or drawer where it's harder to hear conversations, Brill said.

REGISTER, BUT DON'T GIVE AWAY INFO

A software update may fix security holes, and you don't want to miss that fix, says Brill.

But when registering, be stingy with the information you hand over; all they need is contact information to let you know about the update.

If they require other information, such as a child's birthday, make one up.

"You're not under oath," said Brill. "You can lie."

BE VIGILANT

If the toy or device allows kids to chat with other people playing with the same toy or game, explain to children that they can't give out personal information, said Liz Brown, a business law professor at Bentley University in Waltham, Massachusetts, who focuses on technology and privacy law.

Discussions are not enough: Check the chat section to make sure children aren't sending things they shouldn't be, Brown said.

People could be pretending to be kids to get personal information. "It can get creepy pretty fast," said Brown.

Reputable companies that make toys with microphones will offer ways for parents to review and delete stored information.

Take advantage of that.

REPORT BREACHES

If a toy was compromised by a hacker, the FBI recommends reporting it online through its internet crime complaint center at IC3.gov.

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Australia

Sydney seaplane crash: Exhaust fumes affected pilot, report confirms

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The pilot of a seaplane that crashed into an Australian river, killing all on board, had been left confused and disorientated by leaking exhaust fumes, investigators have confirmed.

The Canadian pilot and five members of a British family died in the crash north of Sydney in December 2017.

All were found to have higher than normal levels of carbon monoxide in their blood, a final report has found.

It recommended the mandatory fitting of gas detectors in all such planes.

British businessman Richard Cousins, 58, died alongside his 48-year-old fiancée, magazine editor Emma Bowden, her 11-year-old daughter Heather and his sons, Edward, 23, and William, 25, and pilot Gareth Morgan, 44. Mr Cousins was the chief executive of catering giant Compass.

The family had been on a sightseeing flight in the de Havilland DHC-2 Beaver plane when it nose-dived into the Hawkesbury River at Jerusalem Bay, about 50km (30 miles) from the city centre.

The final report by the Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB) confirmed the findings of an interim report published in 2020.

It said pre-existing cracks in the exhaust collector ring were believed to have released exhaust gas into the engine bay. Holes left by missing bolts in a firewall then allowed the fumes to enter the cabin.

“As a result, the pilot would have almost certainly experienced effects such as confusion, visual disturbance and disorientation,” the report said.

“Consequently, it was likely that this significantly degraded the pilot’s ability to safely operate the aircraft.”

The ATSB recommended the Civil Aviation Safety Authority consider mandating the fitting of carbon monoxide detectors in piston-engine aircraft that carry passengers.

It previously issued safety advisory notices to owners and operators of such aircraft that they install detectors “with an active warning” to pilots”. Operators and maintainers of planes were also advised to carry out detailed inspections of exhaust systems and firewalls.

Read from source: https://www.bbc.com/news/world-australia-55862128

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Australia

Australia unlikely to fully reopen border in 2021, says top official

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Australia is unlikely to fully open its borders in 2021 even if most of its population gets vaccinated this year as planned, says a senior health official.

The comments dampen hopes raised by airlines that travel to and from the country could resume as early as July.

Department of Health Secretary Brendan Murphy made the prediction after being asked about the coronavirus’ escalation in other nations.

Dr Murphy spearheaded Australia’s early action to close its borders last March.

“I think that we’ll go most of this year with still substantial border restrictions,” he told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation on Monday.

“Even if we have a lot of the population vaccinated, we don’t know whether that will prevent transmission of the virus,” he said, adding that he believed quarantine requirements for travellers would continue “for some time”.

Citizens, permanent residents and those with exemptions are allowed to enter Australia if they complete a 14-day hotel quarantine at their own expense.

Qantas – Australia’s national carrier – reopened bookings earlier this month, after saying it expected international travel to “begin to restart from July 2021.”

However, it added this depended on the Australian government’s deciding to reopen borders.

Australia’s tight restrictions

The country opened a travel bubble with neighbouring New Zealand late last year, but currently it only operates one-way with inbound flights to Australia.

Australia has also discussed the option of travel bubbles with other low-risk places such as Taiwan, Japan and Singapore.

A vaccination scheme is due to begin in Australia in late February. Local authorities have resisted calls to speed up the process, giving more time for regulatory approvals.

Australia has so far reported 909 deaths and about 22,000 cases, far fewer than many nations. It reported zero locally transmitted infections on Monday.

Experts have attributed much of Australia’s success to its swift border lockdown – which affected travellers from China as early as February – and a hotel quarantine system for people entering the country.

Local outbreaks have been caused by hotel quarantine breaches, including a second wave in Melbourne. The city’s residents endured a stringent four-month lockdown last year to successfully suppress the virus.

Other outbreaks – including one in Sydney which has infected about 200 people – prompted internal border closures between states, and other restrictions around Christmas time.

The state of Victoria said on Monday it would again allow entry to Sydney residents outside of designated “hotspots”, following a decline in cases.

While the measures have been praised, many have also criticised them for separating families across state borders and damaging businesses.

Dr Murphy said overall Australia’s virus response had been “pretty good” but he believed the nation could have introduced face masks earlier and improved its protections in aged care homes.

In recent days, Australia has granted entry to about 1,200 tennis players, staff and officials for the Australian Open. The contingent – which has recorded at least nine infections – is under quarantine.

Read from source: https://www.bbc.com/news/world-australia-55699581

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Australia

Covid: Brisbane to enter three-day lockdown over single infection

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The Australian city of Brisbane has begun a snap three-day lockdown after a cleaner in its hotel quarantine system became infected with coronavirus.

Health officials said the cleaner had the highly transmissible UK variant and they were afraid it could spread.

Brisbane has seen very few cases of the virus beyond quarantined travellers since Australia’s first wave last year.

It is the first known instance of this variant entering the Australian community outside of hotel quarantine.

The lockdown is for five populous council areas in Queensland’s state capital.

Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk announced the measure on Friday morning local time, about 16 hours after the woman tested positive.

Ms Palaszczuk said the lockdown aimed to halt the virus as rapidly as possible, adding: “Doing three days now could avoid doing 30 days in the future.”

“I think everybody in Queensland… knows what we are seeing in the UK and other places around the world is high rates of infection from this particular strain,” she said.

“And we do not want to see that happening here in our great state.”

Australia has reported 28,500 coronavirus infections and 909 deaths since the pandemic began. By contrast, the US, which is the hardest-hit country, has recorded more than 21 million infections while nearly 362,000 people have died of the disease.The lockdown will begin at 18:00 on Friday (08:00 GMT) in the Brisbane city, Logan and the Ipswich, Moreton and Redlands local government areas.

Residents will only be allowed to leave home for certain reasons, such as buying essential items and seeking medical care.

For the first time, residents in those areas will also be required to wear masks outside of their homes.

Australia has faced sporadic outbreaks over the past year, with the most severe one in Melbourne triggering a lockdown for almost four months.

A pre-Christmas outbreak in Sydney caused fresh alarm, but aggressive testing and contact-tracing has kept infection numbers low. The city recorded four local cases on Friday.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s government has pledged to start mass vaccinations in February instead of March as was planned.

Lockdown interrupts ‘near normal’ life in Brisbane

Simon Atkinson, BBC News in Brisbane

At 8:00 today I popped to the local supermarket for some bread, milk – and because it’s summer here – a mango. I was pretty much the only customer.

When I went past the same shop a couple of hours later it was a different story – 50 people standing in the drizzle – queuing to get inside as others emerged with bulging shopping bags. “Heaps busier than Christmas,” a cheery trolley attendant told me. “It’s off the scale”.

Despite the “don’t panic” messages from authorities, pictures on social media show it’s a pattern being repeated across the city.

While shutdowns are common around the world, the tough and sudden stay-at-home order for Brisbane has caught people on the hop here after months of near normality.

But while such a rapid, hard lockdown off the back of just a single case of Covid-19 will seem crazy in some parts of the world, I’ve not come across too many people complaining.

And I don’t think that’s just because Aussies love to follow a rule. This is the first time the UK variant of the virus has been detected in the community in Australia.

And nobody here wants Brisbane to go through what Melbourne suffered last year. Even if it means going without mangoes.

Read from source: https://www.bbc.com/news/world-australia-55582836

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