If you have a smart TV, you might be living with an in-house spy. The FBI is warning that smart TVs, which allow customers to stream their favorite shows, can be used for spying. You can be binge-watching your favorite sitcom, and a stranger’s eyes are on you and the happenings in your house.
Before you panic or trash that new TV, we have shared all you need to know about this hack.
How is this spying carried out?
Lots of smart TV models have webcams and microphones. Smart TVs offer features like facial recognition that can be used to recommend favorite shows and video-chatting. The FBI is warning, though, that hackers are using these add-ons for nefarious reasons.
In the best-case scenario, the TV manufacturer and app developers can hack the TV’s webcam. They then use it to remotely change your channels, play with your settings or even stream inappropriate videos. Obviously, this can be unsettling and even frightening, but there’s no lasting damage.
In the worst-case scenario, cyber-criminals can access these cameras and microphones and start spying on unknowing victims. By gaining access to the cameras, hackers can turn them on at any time, even if your TV is off. This stalking can grant a hacker access to your computer’s router and lead to all sorts of unhappy endings. These include identity theft, kidnapping, and more.
“Beyond the risk that your TV manufacturer and app developers may be listening [to] and watching you, that television can also be a gateway for hackers to come into your home,” the FBI announced in a report. “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.”
Is there anything I can do about this hack?
The FBI advises consumers to research their smart TV and to get familiar with the control features and camera settings.
“Do a basic Internet search with your model number and the words ‘microphone,’ ‘camera,’ and ‘privacy,’ ” said the FBI.
If possible, consumers should change the device’s default security settings and passwords. This will enable them to turn off the camera and microphone unless they are actually using them. It will also serve as a deterrent for cyber-criminals seeking to control the TV from a remote location.
If the FBI’s warnings still spook you and you want to take stronger measures to protect yourself against spying, you can simply secure a piece of black tape over the camera to keep out any prying eyes.
Another important step to take for keeping hackers out of your smart TV is to always install software updates offered by the manufacturer. Keeping your device updated will afford you the strongest current protection against vulnerabilities and weaknesses.
“Generally, customers who keep their devices up to date won’t have too much to worry about,” says Matt Tait, cybersecurity expert and former analyst at GCHQ, the British signals intelligence service. “But for people who are particularly worried, or who don’t want the new ‘smart’ features, there is a simple solution to keep hackers out: unplug the device from your network.”
Our world is now smarter than ever, but along with the conveniences of an interconnected, digitized world comes a whole slew of risks and vulnerabilities. Keep yourself safe by employing basic protective measures, keeping your devices updated, and staying informed about the latest scams and hacks.
Your Turn: Do you own a smart TV? What measures have you taken to protect yourself from this scare? Tell us about it in the comments.
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