In a world of internet connected devices that could be targeted by hackers in a number of ways it has become common parlance to hear of smartphones and computers being hacked and turned into spying tools. But recently, another common device has been added to the roster of possible monitors: smart TVs. First came the news that Vizio had been tracking customers through their TVs.
Then Wikileaks’ latest raft of documents alleged the CIA had created tools to turn smart TVs into bugging devices. While the news shouldn’t come as a surprise, given the endless warnings that our internet connected devices can easily be hacked or used to watch us, it adds another piece of technology for us to worry about when thinking of our privacy.
What makes smart TVs the perfect spying tool
TVs like mobile phones often betray our most intimate lives, often being located in the centre of our homes. They are often fitted with cameras and microphones, as well as internal memories, which can be used to monitor what we’re doing, saying and watching. As a newer internet connected device, smart TVs are less likely to receive proper security support.
This is in part because users don’t expect them, because of the variety of different operating systems, and as security isn’t traditionally the remit of TV manufacturers. Added to this, users are less likely to use best security practices when it comes to their TV, such as changing passwords and regularly updating the software.
What is a smart TV?
Smart TVs can connect to the internet to access a range of services such as video streaming, games and apps. They are distinct from traditional TVs which require a set-top box to access on-demand programming and additional functions.
Who could be spying on you through your TV?
Then, earlier this year Vizio was fined $2.2 million (£1.8m) for tracking users’ viewing habits without them knowing and sharing the information. As well as the manufacturers monitoring viewers, it has now been revealed that intelligence agencies and law enforcement could be watching citizens through their TVs. Information released by Wikileaks claims that MI5 and the CIA had created a “fake off” mode for the Samsung F8000 range that allowed them to secretly record users’ conversations through the camera and microphone.
How can you stop them?
TV manufacturers can only monitor customers if they have provided their consent. This is often asked for in the set-up process, but can generally be revoked at a later date in Settings. Another way to protect yourself is to make sure your TV is running the latest software.
You can do this by turning on automatic updates or regularly checking for them in Settings. Samsung has said it is “urgently” looking into the news that the CIA could have monitored its customers conversations through the Weeping Angel hack, but has not commented on the validity of the claims. If it finds a problem the company is likely to issue a security update to fix the bug.
Culled: The Telegraph Science & Tech
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