Smart TVs and Protecting Your Privacy

Whether you're utilizing a smart TV to simply watch your favorite show or for dealing with sensitive information in the work environment, there are multiple ways your most private dealings can be compromised simply through the device itself. It’s nearly impossible to find a "dumb" television anymore, so the options are mostly limited to smart TVs that offer a lot of perks that can result  in your most sensitive information being exposed to prying eyes and ears.

In fact, the risks are so high of would-be hackers taking advantage of smart TV security weaknesses that the FBI issued a Cyber Monday warning recently to individuals seeking to land a great deal on these devices. The FBI cautions buyers that these televisions with the inclusion of cameras and Wi-Fi capabilities are the most vulnerable to cyber criminals and mischief-makers. That being said, let’s discuss the potential ways your privacy can be hijacked in the home or office, along with ways the FBI recommends preventing these intrusions.

The Security Risks of Smart TVs

The FBI warning specifically warns consumers about next-generation smart TVs that feature potentially risky bells and whistles. Of particular concern are televisions with active Internet connections and integrated features like microphones for voice commands and video cameras with facial recognition. If hackers intrude the device, they can potentially take over the TV and cause minor annoyances such as changing the volume or the channels. However, a predatory attacker can silently activate cameras and microphones in your home or office, download malicious code, and secretly cyber-stalk you.

Top Ways Smart TVs are Hacked

Here are a few of the biggest vulnerabilities posed by smart TVs whether used for personal or official business in the workplace.

Webcam Compromises

Webcam hacking has made a resurgence in mainstream news, as miscreants have found it much easier to gain access to security cameras and televisions with camera technology. Essentially, they can see what you’re doing and likely even hear you, which can mean big trouble for businesses that deal with sensitive data or information. Homeowners not only lose their sense of privacy, but thieves can use webcams of all types to case out the home with intentions on "stopping by" when you’re away.

Tracking Viewing and Browsing History

Smart televisions collect enormous amounts of information on users through Automatic Content Recognition, which documents everything you watch with intent to pass it on to advertisers along with your TV browsing history. While this could potentially benefit you in the home environment by guiding your viewing experience, other televisions can collect data through recordings or by tracking viewings through the connected phone line. You must decide how comfortable you are with the practice before buying a smart TV.

Outdated Software

Smart television manufacturers typically keep software up-to-date automatically or prompt users to do so when a new update is released. It is vital to install these updates right way to stay shielded from hacking efforts. Those who want additional protection can invest in a secure router that offers another barricade at the entry point to the Internet connection.

Additional Protections for Smart TV Users

In addition to efforts mentioned previously, there are a few more ways that smart TVs can be "tamed." After ensuring that the device’s software is updated, the FBI recommends these steps.

  • Learn more about the television's security settings via the instruction manual or by searching online
  • Find out how to enable and disable any cameras or microphones
  • Consider putting black tape across video devices lacking a turn-off function
  • Change any default passwords set by the manufacturers
  • Businesses should consider using an off-site service that can help protect their sensitive data and meetings where smart televisions are involved

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