FBI warns smart TV users of security risks

Are you watching TV or is your TV watching you? The FBI has issued a warning about one of the top items on people’s Christmas lists: smart TVs.

The agency said smart TVs potentially allow hackers access into homes because smart TVs have the ability to connect to the internet for streaming services and apps, according to AL.com. Cybercriminals can gain access to people’s homes through the device’s camera or microphone.

According to an FBI blog post, “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.”

The FBI also said hackers can 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,” the blog post said.

How can you protect your family? The FBI suggests the following:

  • Know exactly what features your TV has and how to control those features. 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?
  • 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.

If you have been victimized by cyber fraud, report it to the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center at www.IC3.gov or call your local FBI office.

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