November 10, 2019
Savvy shoppers know that Black Friday and Cyber Monday present some of the best deals of the year on pricy electronics like TVs. Overall, the National Retail Federation expects Americans will spend about $730 billion this holiday season.
But new owners of internet-connected smart TVs might not be as good at spotting hackers as they are at spotting deals. As manufacturers continue to produce more and more devices capable of connecting to the internet, you may welcome their convenience and the options they provide. However, you may not have considered their potential risks. The FBI’s Portland, Oregon, field office shared some tips recently for anyone who needs to secure a smart TV.
Some models of smart TVs include built-in cameras. They can be used for video chatting with friends and family, and some can let the TV recognize who is watching and suggest programming based on their past preferences.
But hackers may be able to access those TVs through the internet, allowing them to spy through the camera and microphone, or change channels, adjust the volume and play “inappropriate videos,” the FBI warned.
Hackers could even potentially use an unsecured TV as a backdoor to a router, potentially allowing them to access a computer or other device connected to the Wi-Fi, according to the FBI.
What are some ways a smart tv can be hacked?
Webcam hacking is nothing new, but it has been getting more mainstream attention. Cassidy Wolf, a Miss Teen USA contestant, was targeted by hackers for blackmail after they used remote administration software to take photos of her in her bedroom, through her own computer. That problem could now be headed to your living room TV.
The threat isn’t just being seen in your unmentionables. A hacker could just as easily use the webcam on your television to find out whether you have anything worth stealing in your home or when you are most likely to be gone for long periods. Other instances have involved hackers adjusting the volume remotely, rapidly cycling through channels, opening disturbing or explicit content, and accessing the connected smart TV’s built-in browser to download malicious code.
The tracking problem
Even if you don’t have a webcam on your television, it’s important to understand that the company providing you with content could likely be tracking your browsing history and what you are watching. Much of that tracking is, ostensibly, in the name of serving you with advertising more attuned to your interests, but you should consider whether you’re comfortable with that practice.
Here’s what the FBI recommends to keep hackers out of smart TVs:
– Disconnect it from your home network. But if you want access to some of the perks of smart technology, consider avoiding TVs with built-in webcams.
– Because each smart TV is different, owners should search for the exact model number online and words like “microphone,” “camera” and “privacy” to learn how to control those features.
– Don’t leave security settings on the default option and chance passwords if possible. It’s also a good idea to check how to turn off microphones, cameras and personal data collection ahead of making a purchase, and considering a different model if they can’t be turned off.
– A piece of black tape can help when a camera can’t be turned off.
– Check whether the manufacturer can and whether it does update the device with security patches.
Keep in mind, smart TV manufacturers try their best to keep all software up to date, but in the rush to get new devices to market, security may be an afterthought. As technology changes rapidly, your 3-year-old smart TV may start looking ancient soon. This is where a secure router can play an important role, since it is essentially the entry point of the internet into your home, and the router can help provide some protection at that entry point.
Want to protect yourself against a cyber security threat? Contact Louis Mamo & Company today for a freee consultation.
Sources: Fox Business and Norton Security