FBI Issues Warning to Everyone Who Bought New Smart TVs This Year

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Smart TVs are connected, convenient and, according to a warning from the FBI, possibly a vector for hackers to see or hear inside of your home.

Last week, the Oregon branch of the FBI issued a warning about smart TVs ahead of Black Friday and Cyber Monday, a shopping period in which tens of thousands of consumers undoubtedly purchased them.

If you’re unfamiliar, smart TVs are essentially TVs with an internet connection. If your TV came with an app store and services like Roku or Netflix built-in, then it’s a smart TV.

But, like with other internet-connected devices, smart TVs are a possible attack vector for hackers. That’s made especially worse since many smart TVs have a microphone and a camera (and many IoT manufacturers don’t make security a top priority).

“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,” the FBI wrote.

In the worst-case scenarios, an attacker could take control of your smart TV and even its microphone or camera to spy on you.

Thankfully, smart TV exploits are fairly rare, but they aren’t unheard of. More than that, the spotty security patch habits of most TV manufacturers means that some smart TVs are much more vulnerable than others.

Earlier this year, security researchers demonstrated that it was possible to hijack Google Chromecast. Many of the most devious smart TV exploits in recent years were developed by the CIA — and later stolen and put on the black market.

And that’s not even taking into account just how much data your smart TV may be harvesting from you. Last week’s FBI warning even noted that there’s a risk that “your TV manufacturer and app developers may be listening and watching you” with the microphone and camera.

In any case, the FBI recommends a few things to help keep yourself safe.

  1. Make sure your smart TV is up-to-date with the latest software.
  2. Place black tape over your smart TV camera if you don’t use it much.
  3. Read the privacy policies to see what kind of data your TV maker and app developers collect.

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