Dec 17, 2015 12:00 AM

NH1 News Investigates Hackable Barbie: Why interactive Hello Barbie is a serious security risk

CONCORD - A warning for parents’ holiday shopping for their kids: Tech experts are calling out one of Mattel’s Barbie dolls - Hello Barbie - for posing a serious safety risk to children.

“Hey, you’re here. How are you? Well, I missed you. I just love laughing and talking with you."

Those are just a few of the 8,000 lines Hello Barbie delivers to get your kids talking.

But parents beware.

Some tech experts say Hello Barbie - Mattel’s latest interactive doll - is insecure and NOT always discreet with your kid’s conversations.

“It’s a Barbie that’ll talk to you, talk to the kids, talk to your sister," Craig Peterson, a technology consultant, said. "It has thousands of different phrases that it can say. So, it’s listening to you, it’s using artificial intelligence to determine what it’s going to say back to you."

It works like this: Hello Barbie connects to your wireless network and sends all spoken words it picks up to the cloud.

“What’s happening is the encryption that’s going on, that little communication back to the server is flawed," Peterson said. "The people that wrote this put a single password - the same password - into every Barbie. So, once you’ve hacked that password on the Barbie, you are now able to get to a network that has a Barbie on it."

So, what information can hackers really collect?

Hello Barbie: “What’s you’re middle name?”

“Ultimately, they can now take over someone’s life, and the best life to take over is a young kid because it’ll be 15 to 20 years before they apply for credit cards, before they apply for a job, before anyone notices that their whole life has been taken over,” Peterson said.

Hello Barbie: “Can’t wait to talk to you later!”

Vicki Ridings was shopping for her two boys, when we showed her Hello Barbie.

Her response? “It’s Barbie for God’s sake! I mean, c’mon!” She said. “I think it’s scary. I think it’s really scary. Our kids are vulnerable. You wouldn’t even think that. Most parents would not think of that. They see a Barbie, they don’t see the hidden dangers, so that’s frightening.”

Another mother in last-minute shopping mode, Katie Langevin, was more than just a little concerned.

Celine McArthur: “If your niece had this in the house, and was playing with it, people could listen to all of your conversations.”

Langevin: “That is very creepy.”

Hello Barbie isn’t the only toy with security concerns thanks their internet connections.

Hackers stole account information of millions of kids who used the Learning Lodge app store for VTech toys last month.

“This kind of information, up in the cloud, not a good idea,” Peterson said.

Grandmother Jeanie Duso hopes her grandkids won’t have Hello Barbie under their Christmas tree.

She says she’s going to share this news with her entire family.

“I sure will," she said. "I’m just hoping they haven’t bought anything for Christmas for them."

Hello Barbie: “Can’t wait to talk to you later!”

Mattel and the software maker ToyTalk are racing to patch the security problems. But that’s not expected to happen before the holidays.

In the meantime, hackers can get all kinds of information.

First, from the app you have to download and register with to get Barbie talking.

And once she does? Well, I downloaded the latest list of the 8,000 phrases Barbie will say to prompt a dialogue.

She’s probing - asking middle names, details about school, siblings, parents, friends, hobbies, favorite toys, favorite foods, dreams, what kids are doing *today* details on upcoming vacations and religious holidays.

Among those 8,000 Barbie responses is this one: “I promise, I won’t tell anyone.”

Once the doll is secured, keep in mind, Mattel still has all that information on your family.

“The pedophiles are obviously a real concern, but a bigger concern are the hackers who will sell that little girl’s life basically - all of her credit life -for as little as 5 dollars each," Peterson said.


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