Why your new ‘smart’ TV could be the biggest security hole in your home

FBI cautions consumers about smart TV holiday purchases

CINCINNATI (FOX19) - Smart TVs—they’re incredible, right? They hook up to the internet, giving you access to streaming services and apps.

Many of them have built-in microphones. Some of them have cameras.

Fair warning though: what makes these TVs ‘smart,’ according to the FBI, is exactly what makes them dangerous.

Your TV’s manufacturer could be listening to your conversations. The developers behind your favorite apps could be watching you sleep.

Worse, says the FBI, you could be opening up your home to hackers—that is, cybercriminals.

“These IOT devices, these smart TVs, other so-called ‘smart’ devices, are typically a threat because they’re often rushed to market,” FOX19 NOW technology expert Dave Hatter explained. “Security is an afterthought.

FBI | Securing Smart TVs

“I don’t care if it’s a smart Barbie Doll,” Hatter continued. “Anything that’s ‘smart,’ if it’s connected to the internet, you need to be concerned about it being a security hole in your network and how you’re going to update the thing in the future.”

The risk, says Hatter, is hackers might take control of your TV, change the channels, adjust the volume, show your kids inappropriate videos or cyberstalk you from the living room to the bedroom.

“Again,” Hatter said, “this isn’t Doomsday Dave telling you this. It’s the FBI.”

To be clear, Hatter isn’t saying not to buy one of these smart TVs, but that you need to understand the risks and take the proper precautions.

Here are the FBI’s recommendations:

  • 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?
  • 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.

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