For many people, watching television is a beloved pastime — but could your smart TV be watching you in return?
As discount smart TVs fly off the shelves in Cyber Monday sales, the FBI has issued a warning that the internet-connected devices can allow hackers access to your home.
Connected televisions with cameras and microphones can provide an opening for bad actors to spy on you and violate your privacy, they warned.
Hackers can also take control of unsecured smart TVs and use them as a bridgehead to access your router and form their get into your computer or smartphone.
To combat this, they advocate familiarising yourself with your TV’s privacy features and policies, not relying on default settings and covering cameras with tape.
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Smart — or ‘connected’ — televisions are those devices that link to the internet and allow the use of various apps and streaming services.
Increasingly, these high-tech device are being fitted with cameras and microphones — allowing for user voice control and the addition of video chat facilities.
Some models are even being designed with facial recognition technology, allowing for the television to determine who is watching and make suggestions for new programmes to enjoy based on individual viewing histories.
With these features, however, come privacy and security concerns.
Beyond the risk that your TV manufacturer and app developers may be listening and watching you, that television can also be a gateway for hackers to come into your home,’ a Portland, Oregon FBI spokesperson wrote on the bureau’s website.
‘A bad cyber actor may not be able to access your locked-down computer directly.’
Nevertheless, they warned, ‘it is possible that your unsecured TV can give him or her an easy way in the backdoor through your router.’
The FBI also warned of the potential for hackers to remotely take control of an unsecured smart TV.
‘At the low end of the risk spectrum, they can change channels, play with the volume, and show your kids inappropriate videos,’ they cautioned.
‘In a worst-case scenario, they can turn on your bedroom TV’s camera and microphone and silently cyberstalk you.
The bureau noted that US citizens can report cyber-fraud to either their local FBI office, or online via the Internet Crime Complaint Centre.
WHAT STEPS CAN YOU TAKE TO SECURE YOUR SMART TV?
Hackers may try to exploit your smart TV to spy on you and gain access to other connected technologies in your home.
The FBI have the following recommendations to keep your home safe:
- Know exactly what features your TV has and how to control those features. Do a basic Internet search with your model number and the words ‘microphone’, ‘camera’, and ‘privacy’.
- Don’t depend on the default security settings. Change passwords if you can — and know how to turn off the microphones, cameras, and collection of personal information if possible. If you can’t turn them off, consider whether you are willing to take the risk of buying that model or using that service.
- If you can’t turn off a camera but want to, a simple piece of black tape over the camera eye is a back-to-basics option.
- Check the manufacturer’s ability to update your device with security patches. Can they do this? Have they done it in the past?