Smart TVs are regular television sets with an internet connection. They are especially common now with the rise of streaming services like Netflix, Hulu and Disneys streaming services. But, like anything that connects to the world wide web, security vulnerabilities and hackers become a real concern. Many of these TVs come with a camera and a microphone. Like, as is the case with most other internet-connected devices, manufacturers often do not focus on security.
Smart TV. Photo: HKC Europe BV.
The FBI’s Portland field office 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, 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. They all come with their manufacturer’s own software. But they 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.
One of the biggest exploits targeting smart TVs in recent years was by the Central Intelligence Agency (or CIA). The files later came online via WikiLeaks after it was stolen.
The FBI’s warning is as a result of genuine fears, but one of the bigger issues is how much tracking data is collected on owners.
Although convenient, the most secure smart TV might be one that is disconnected from the internet.