FBI issues warning about smart TVs

File photo: A smart TV

If you just bought a smart TV on Black Friday or
plan to buy one for Cyber Monday, the FBI wants you to know a few things.

Smart TVs are like regular television sets but with an internet
connection. With the advent and growth of Netflix, Hulu and other streaming
services, most saw internet-connected televisions as a cord-cutter’s dream. But
like anything that connects to the internet, it opens up smart TVs to security
vulnerabilities and hackers. Not only that, many smart TVs come with a camera and
a microphone. But as is the case with most other internet-connected devices,
manufacturers often don’t put security as a priority.

That’s the key takeaway from the FBI’s Portland field office,
which just ahead of some of the biggest shopping days of the year posted a
warning on its website about the risks that smart TVs pose.

“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 bad cyber actor may not be able to access
your locked-down computer directly, but it is possible that your unsecured TV
can give him or her an easy way in the backdoor through your router,”
wrote the FBI.

The FBI warned that hackers can take control of your unsecured
smart TV and in worst cases, take control of the camera and microphone to watch
and listen in.

Active attacks and exploits against smart TVs are rare, but not
unheard of. Because every smart TV comes with their manufacturer’s own software
and are at the mercy of their often unreliable and irregular security patching
schedule, some devices are more vulnerable than others. Earlier this year,
hackers showed it was possible to hijack Google’s Chromecast streaming stick
and broadcast random videos to thousands of victims.

In fact, some of the biggest exploits targeting smart TVs in
recent years were developed by the Central Intelligence Agency, but were
stolen. The files were later published online by WikiLeaks.

But as much as the FBI’s warning is responding to genuine fears,
arguably one of the bigger issues that should cause as much if not greater
concerns are how much tracking data is collected on smart TV owners.

The Washington Post earlier this year found that some of the most popular
smart TV makers — including Samsung and LG — collect tons of information about
what users are watching in order to help advertisers better target ads against
their viewers and to suggest what to watch next, for example. The TV tracking
problem became so problematic a few years ago that smart TV maker Vizio had to pay $2.2 million in fines after it was caught
secretly collecting customer viewing data. Earlier this year, a separate class
action suit related to the tracking again Vizio was allowed to go ahead.

The FBI recommends placing black tape over an unused smart TV
camera, keeping your smart TV up-to-date with the latest patches and fixes, and
to read the privacy policy to better understand what your smart TV is capable
of.

As convenient as it might be, the most secure smart TV might be
one that isn’t connected to the internet at all.

Source: Yahoo

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