FBI Issues Warning on Smart TVs: They Could Spy on You


Instead, agents urged anyone considering buying a smart TV to make sure that they fully grasp exactly what features their smart TV comes with and how to control them before making a purchase.

The agency also notes that some smart TVs come with built-in cameras and microphones, used for voice commands and facial recognition to identify different users and suggest appropriate programs.

That's true, but while there have been relatively few cases of hackers invading homes via their smart TVs, it's only a matter of time until they're watching and listening to you. But like any internet-connected device, they can be a convenient portal for hackers, as the FBI's Portland field office pointed out in a warning to consumers last week. "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 Federal Bureau of Investigation.

The FBI also warned of the potential for hackers to remotely take control of an unsecured smart TV.

In the worst-case scenarios, an attacker could take control of your smart TV and even its microphone or camera to spy on you.

What's worse is that smart TVs usually come with a microphone installed so users can tell their TV to change the channel and tell it to play their favorite shows or music.

If you think you may have been hacked, incidents of cyber-crime can be reported to the FBI's Internet Crime Complaint Center in the USA, or check here for more information about UK-based services. Since recently purchased TVs are smart TVs, they are created to be connected to the internet for a means of accessing streaming platforms such as Netflix, Amazon Prime etc. The FBI recommends searching your model number with the words "microphone", "camera", and "privacy" to quickly find the precise information.

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More recently, Samsung issued guidance to customers saying they should regularly scan their smart TVs for malware, just like a PC.

Back-to-basics option: if you can't turn off a camera, use a simple piece of black tape over the camera lens.

Don't depend on the default security settings.

4-Check the manufacturer's ability to update your device with security patches.

Check the privacy policy for the TV manufacturer and the streaming services you use: confirm what data they collect, how they store that data, and what they do with it.

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.