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A recent story http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/northamerica/usa/8180442/FBI-warns-Barbie-camera-could-be-used-by-paedophiles.html tells of a leaked FBI memo about the perils of a new Barbie doll. It appears that the new Barbie comes equipped with a web cam that can allow children to send videos of themselves across the net. The FBI, rightfully so, worries that this may be a weapon of pedophiles to be used against children.
There is a review with a video at http://blogs.wsj.com/digits/2010/12/08/fbi-video-barbie-could-hold-evidence-in-child-abuse-cases/
This is yet another case where a cool technology can be used for good or for bad. At the end of the day it is the parent’s responsibility to control and monitor their children’s access to the internet and teach them what is appropriate and what is not.
From what I have been able to see, the doll must be connected to a PC with a USB cable to send pictures and movies. Parents should monitor what their children are sending on the internet. It is important to teach children that just because someone online says they are a kid it doesn’t mean that they really are. I know of parents who have become “friends” on their kid’s MySpace or FaceBook accounts. This actually can be a good way to teach kids to be more cautious about who they accept as friends.
A Barbie webcam isn’t likely to be much more risky than a normal webcam, but it is always a good idea to recognize potential threats. Speaking of which, the Barbie doll is a USB device with storage, which means it can house autorun threats. I hope Mattel is more careful than several other companies have been in the past or Barbie can come straight from the store and infect computers.
Director of Technical Education
Cyber Threat Analysis Center – ESET LLC
Author ESET Research, ESET