Oregon FBI Issues Warning, Offers Tips on How to Prevent Smart TVs from Spying on You

The Oregon FBI has issued a stark warning on the official FBI website that many Smart TVs with built in Cameras can be vulnerable to being hacked and potentially used to spy on you.

Luckily, the FBI has also offered multiple tips on how to make yourself less vulnerable to an attack.

These include changing the default password, understanding the privacy settings, and even the good old fashioned method of putting black tape over the camera when it’s not in use.

Per TechCrunch active attacks and exploits against smart TVs are rare, but not unheard of. Because every smart TV comes with their manufacturer’s own software and are at the mercy of their often unreliable and irregular security patching schedule, some devices are more vulnerable than others. Earlier this year, hackers showed it was possible to hijack Google’s Chromecast streaming stick and broadcast random videos to thousands of victims.

In fact, some of the biggest exploits targeting smart TVs in recent years were developed by the Central Intelligence Agency, but were stolen and published online by WikiLeaks two years ago.

From FBI.gov

Oregon FBI Tech Tuesday: Securing Smart TVs

Welcome to the Oregon FBI’s Tech Tuesday segment. Today: building a digital defense with your TV.

Yes, I said your TV. Specifically your smart TV…the one that is sitting in your living room right now. Or, the one that you plan to buy on super sale on Black Friday.

Smart TVs are called that because they connect to the Internet. They allow you to use popular streaming services and apps. Many also have microphones for those of us who are too lazy to actually to pick up the remote. Just shout at your set that you want to change the channel or turn up the volume and you are good to go.

A number of the newer TV’s also have built-in cameras. In some cases, the cameras are used for facial recognition so the TV knows who is watching and can suggest programming appropriately. There are also devices coming to market that allow you to video chat with grandma in 42” glory.

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.

Hackers can also 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.

TVs and technology are a big part of our lives, and they aren’t going away. So how can you protect your family?

-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.

This article first appeared on TheConservativeOpinion.com 

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