FBI Warns Everyone About Smart TV Spying On You
If you just bought a smart TV on Black Friday or Cyber Monday, the FBI wants you to be aware of a few things. On November 26, the FBI’s Portland, Oregon office issued a warning to smart TV users about the security risks associated with buying smart TVs.
In the report, the FBI said,
“A number of the newer TVs also have built-in cameras. In some cases, the cameras are used for facial recognition so the TV knows who is watching and can suggest programming appropriately. 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 directly, but it is possible that your unsecured TV can give him or her an easy way in the backdoor through your router. Hackers can also take control of your unsecured TV. At the low end of the risk spectrum, they can change channels, play with the volume, and show your kids inappropriate videos. In a worst-case scenario, they can turn on your bedroom TV’s camera and microphone and silently cyberstalk you.”
Things are getting very sticky. Now that we have to protect our phones and computers against hackers, we also have to lock down all the smart devices in our living room, including our televisions.
Smart TVs have a lot of really smart and useful data on it. It also means that this data is really valuable not just to the device makers but also to hackers too. That device is probably secured with a really insecure default password. Often this could be ‘12345’ or the admin that is really easy to change. This only means that hackers are aware of the best devices in their hacker forums where they are able to talk about the best devices to hack and the best methods of hacking these devices.
A picture of Mack Zuckerberg was taken of him in his office doing an interview and his laptop had a piece of tape blocking the camera. In the report, the FBI suggested that one way to protect yourself is by turning off the camera or using a black tape over the camera’s aperture. If your smart TV has a camera on it, or you have just acquired the new Facebook portal, which is like a TV-like device, then you need to be more careful.
Camera & Microphone
Many of the Alexa devices sold by Amazon also have cameras on the front of them. Whether it’s a TV or just a device with a screen, you have to make sure that the little slider is covering the camera and that the microphones are also physically covered. The new Alexa devices sold by Amazon have privacy protections built in. One has to make sure that the device’s cameras are covered with tapes and that the microphone holes are covered too. If you want it to truly be offline, make sure that you unplug it.
There have been reports that smart TVs are watching what you do and reporting the data back to the original manufacturers. Just like there is important information created by your phone on the apps you use, for smart TVs, there are also applications such as Netflix and YouTube which send data to the device maker and talk to each other by sending information between each other.
Much of that information is also as vulnerable as the one stored on your phone. If your TV has a weak or non-existent password, all that information can be accessed by cyber-attackers. Data firms use TV history to link up what you watch with what you do on your phone, tablet and laptop – even when you can buy them in stores. It’s as if your TV can unhook itself and follow you around.
When one wants to siphon information from your phone, it’s useful to both hackers and big data companies. What’s even better is Cookie synching which incorporates a cookie that is made up of a little piece of data. It exists on your computer or phone and identifies with your browser and what you’re doing on that phone with the applications.
You can then sign in to accounts which are also signed into your TV. It lets device makers synch the information between the TV, phone and computer. This gives one a pretty good idea of who they are and some of their habits.
How To Protect Yourself
TVs and technology occupy a big part of our lives and that may not change soon. Here’s how to protect your family:
- Know the features your TV has and how to control them. 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?