If you just bought a smart TV on Black Friday or want to buy one for Cyber Monday tomorrow, the FBI wants you to know a few things.
Smart TVs are like normal TV sets, but have an Internet connection. With the advent and growth of Netflix, Hulu, and other streaming services, most Internet TVs saw it as a cable cutter dream. But like everything connected to the Internet, it opens smart TVs to security holes and hackers. In addition, many smart TVs have a camera and a microphone. As with most other devices connected to the Internet, however, security is often not a priority among manufacturers.
This is the primary clue from the FBI's Portland office, which posted a Web site warning of the risks of smart TVs shortly before some of the biggest shopping days of the year.
“Aside from the risk of your TV maker and app developer listening and watching you, television can also be a gateway for hackers. A bad cyber actor may not be able to directly access your locked computer, but it is possible that your unsecured television could give him an easy way in the back door through your router, ”wrote the FBI.
The FBI warned that hackers could take control of your unsecured smart TV and, in the worst case, take control of the camera and microphone to watch and listen.
Active attacks and exploits against smart TVs are rare, but not uncommon. Because each smart TV comes with its own software from the manufacturer and is exposed to the often unreliable and irregular schedule for security patches, some devices are more vulnerable than others. Earlier this year, hackers showed that it was possible to kidnap Google's Chromecast streaming stick and send random videos to thousands of victims.
In fact, some of the biggest exploits targeting smart TVs in recent years have been developed by the Central Intelligence Agency, but stolen. The files were later published online by WikiLeaks.
However, as much as the FBI's warning responds to real fears, it's probably one of the bigger problems that should raise as much, if not more, concerns about how much tracking data is collected about smart TV owners.
The Washington Post earlier this year found that some of the most popular smart TV manufacturers – including Samsung and LG – are gathering tons of information about what users see to help advertisers better target ads and viewers Make suggestions look next, for example. The problem with TV tracking became so problematic a few years ago that smart TV maker Vizio was fined $ 2.2 million after being caught secretly collecting customer data. Earlier this year, a separate class action lawsuit related to the persecution of Vizio was allowed to continue.
As convenient as it may be, the safest smart TV may be one that is not connected to the internet at all.