Smart TV at your Home is the next spy device: Smartness is not about the TV but how you use it

Smart TV at your Home is the next spy device: Smartness is not about the TV but how you use it

The Television (TV) of today is no more a pure data-streamer, it is but an intelligent machine with high-resolution screens, cameras, microphones, internet ready and innovative interfaces geared towards a better user experience. This intelligent device is now also loaded with adequate RAM, faster Processors and Storage space (expandable). These Smart TVs have found their way into many homes, with every second TV being sold in the market being a Smart TV. The advent of new technologies will in the coming day, only make this dumb device another gateway with Digital Vulnerabilities and a Spy into your homes.

This unsecured TV that is connected to the internet could be used as a conduit for cyber-criminals to gain virtual entry into a home. The very fact that a Smart TV can be connected to the Internet and also with features to install apps on them; the device can be used by elements to listen and watch you and 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 home routers.

Cyber experts have time and again advised the users that these Smart TVs can be used by hackers to manipulate the controls on the device and also exploit the camera and microphone and even switch on utilities to silently cyber-stalk you. The default security settings of these Smart TVs are never reviewed by the user in its complete life-cycle, thus leaving scope for easy access and being unprotected.

Things Your Smart TV Can Do

The Smart TV is loaded with an Operating System (OS). Android is the OS of choice for many brands of smart TVs, and this comes with a plethora of features:

Additional Apps and Software Loadable
Considering that most TVs are scale-able and have options of installing apps and software from the internet app store or through the sideload option (transfer installable files using a USB drive); this device is equally vulnerable like a Laptop or a Smartphone.
Connectability through WiFi and attachability of Bluetooth Accessories
Almost all Smart TVs come with built-in WiFi, Bluetooth as well as Ethernet connectivity. A majority of Smart TVs support various Bluetooth accessories such as Bluetooth wireless headphones, keyboards and mice and also can extended its connectivity to networks.
File Transfers
The very feature of having inherent storage space and the ability to connect large storage devices to these Smart TVs, enables transfer of files and software with ease.
Lite on Security and Heavy on Deliverable
The Smart TV, is seen as an insignificant entertainer and is never viewed as a vulnerable machine that is very much present in the home, also make it inconspicuous.
So, how do you prevent the Smart TV from being turned against by Cyber Criminals?

These are few suggestions to ensure security and also to prevent being a victim of hacks:

Know exactly what features your TV has and how to control those features. Ask for the user manual, also study the features of all Apps and Software installed on the Smart TV.
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 there is no provisions to harden the device through user settings, you may think of using security utilities to plug the gap.
If you can’t turn-off a camera, or any other susceptible interface on the Smart TV; look at options like cutting of power supply/bus connector to the interface or even look at options that are back-to-basic (for example, affixing a simple piece of black tape over the camera eye).
Check the manufacturer’s ability to update your device with security patches. Can they do this? Have they done it in the past?, etc, etc….
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.
Investigate the gateway devices, for what flows through the network components by studying it logs and behaviour.
Conclusion

The TV, today is no more a ‘Dumb’ Device. The availability of the Smart TV is also expanding, with one to each Bed Room apart from having a few placed in the common areas. The Smart TV is also available at Corporate Offices. As it gains more features, the amount and sensitivity of the data they handle are increasingly appealing to cyber-criminals. The TVs can be misused to spy on users with the cameras and microphone or act as jumping-off points for attacks at other devices in the home and corporate offices that are placed in the networks.

Apart from Hackers/Cyber Criminal (who are aiming at financial gains), even TV manufacturers/app developers might be monitoring you and your family for business interest, corporate gains (and also to study viewing patterns) and spying. Users may have taken steps to keep cyber thieves from accessing your home computer/ mobile phones directly, but cyber security experts say it’s still possible for them to use your unsecured TV as a ‘back door’ to your router, to execute any cyber crime.

Cyber Secure India

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Bernie Crump

There is no basis for trusting that “opting out” of the manufacturers data monitoring programs really stops the practice, or that “disabling” a microphone really disables anything. Additionally, all bets are off if the TV gets hacked. I agree with the recommendations in the article, but I’d add that you should keep the TV disconnected from the internet when it’s not in use.