The FBI warns that the smart TV is spying on you

Your Smart TV could be spying on you, warn the FBI

     According to a new warning from the FBI, your Smart TV could be used by criminals to hack into your home computer network and spy on your every move. This includes watching you and your family, as well as attacking other devices on your home network.

     If you bought yourself a new Smart TV during the Black Friday sales, or are planning to buy one for the holiday season, you may want to take a moment to reconsider what you brought into your living room, or worse, your bedroom.

     While there are a lot of handy features that come with modern smart TVs – like the ability to immerse yourself in on-demand services like Netflix, Hulu and Amazon Prime Video at the touch of a button, stream videos from your smartphone to the big screen, and even make video calls with friends and family while you’re relaxing on the couch.

     Smart TVs with an Internet connection allow users to browse the web and watch shows from their favorite streaming platforms. 

     They also come with a range of customizable features instead of remote control, including voice commands to browse channels or turn up the volume. 

     But the devices – equipped with cameras, microphones and, in some cases, facial recognition technology – are often poorly secured by their manufacturers compared to computers or smartphones, the FBI warned last week.

     This allows cybercriminals who can exploit the vulnerability of these Smart TVs to access home routers.

          New FBI warning about Smart TVs

     The local FBI office in Portland published a de blog article detailing all the ways someone could use the features of a smart TV for nefarious purposes.

     “Beyond the risk of your TV manufacturer and application developers listening and watching you, this TV can also be a gateway for hackers to come to your home,” the agency wrote. 

     “A bad cyber-actor may not be able to directly access your locked computer, but your insecure TV set may give him an easy way to hide in the back door via your router.”

     “At the lower end of the risk spectrum, they can change channels, play with the volume, and show your kids inappropriate videos,” said the FBI. “In the worst case, they can turn on the camera and microphone on your bedroom TV and silently intercept you.” 

          People don’t know the extent of the danger…

     As Internet-enabled devices become more and more common in the home, new security issues surround the technology. Earlier this year, a couple in Illinois reported that a hacker had talked to their baby via their Nest security cameras.

     Other organizations said they saw an increase in their electricity bills last year after hackers used their smart refrigerators to exploit Bitcoin.

     An investigation by Consumer Reports 2018 revealed that millions of smart TVs have security holes that are easy to exploit, and hackers have shown how bad actors can take control of the devices.

     In June, electronics maker Samsung even Twitted a reminder to smart TV owners to check their TVs for viruses every few weeks to “prevent malware attacks” – and then removed the Twitter after media coverage triggered a violent reaction.

     Earlier this year, the Washington Post found that some of the most popular smart TV manufacturers – including Samsung and LG – are collecting tons of information about what users are watching to help advertisers better target ads against their viewers and suggest what to watch next.

     The problem of TV tracking has become so problematic that a few years ago, smart TV manufacturer Vizio was fined $2.2 million after being caught secretly collecting viewing data from customers.

     Smart TVs collect a huge amount of viewer data to share with advertisers, including the programs people watch. 

     Unlike older analog devices, newer Internet-enabled TVs can also “crash” and require antivirus scanning, just like a computer.

     Smart TVs are clearly a viable entry point for hackers. But that doesn’t mean you can’t have your smart TV and enjoy your privacy too, according to the FBI post.

     Users need to understand the features of their smart TVs, the FBI advised, including how to turn them off if necessary. 

     The bureau also recommended changing passwords or even saving to the camera when the TV is not in use.

     The agency suggests that you do your research before buying a smart TV to make sure you understand all the security holes. 

     If you buy a TV, be sure to change the default passwords and find out how you can turn off its cameras or microphones.

     And if all else fails, the FBI suggests going back to basics and placing a piece of black tape on the smart TV’s camera. 

     This may sound a little ridiculous, but it’s better than giving a hacker a window directly into your home.